Football: An old boy's day at Hibs

Phil Gordon says Darren Jackson can expect a lively return to Easter Road
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The Independent Online
IF Teddy Sheringham wants to know what awaits him when he returns to White Hart Lane on Sunday, he could do worse than ring Darren Jackson this evening. Like Manchester United's new signing, Jackson has been placed in the unenviable position of making his debut for his new club at the one which sold him. Celtic will show off their new pounds 1.25m striker today under the very noses of the supporters who reacted with fury to his sale.

Just as Sheringham's trial at Tottenham will be watched by a nationwide audience, so Sky's cameras will also permit a very public verdict on whether Jackson's return to Easter Road, for the clubs' opening Premier League match of the season, is a return of the prodigal or a christian thrown to the lions.

It is not a situation which Jackson envies, but he is too old to let fear get in the way of ambition. At 31, the Scotland international has - like his England counterpart - been given a chance to earn the honours that have so far eluded him and a spot of name-calling is a small price to pay for success.

"I knew the day I signed for Celtic that I would have to make my debut against Hibs," Jackson said. "At least this way, I get it over and done with right away. I don't really know what reception I'll get from the Hibs fans. I've had some letters from a few of them wishing me all the best. It would be nice if they gave me a good reception, but the Hibs fans are there to see their team win, not worry about me, and I'm there to win for my team, which now happens to be Celtic."

The reaction to Jackson's departure in Edinburgh was as much because he compounded the exit of the goalkeeper Jim Leighton. Hibs had lost their two most valuable assets only weeks after the pair had ensured the club's survival in the Premier League by defeating Airdrie in the end-of-season play-off, with Jackson contributing two goals.

He dismisses suggestions that he knew the occasion was his swan-song, even though Celtic - through former manager Tommy Burns - had already had one bid rejected for him and Coventry were also waiting in the wings. "I wasn't even thinking about a move, just keeping Hibs up, which is where they should be - a club like that should not be in the First Division.

"I can see why the Hibs fans were disappointed in my leaving but the chance was too big for me to turn down at this stage in my career and Hibs made good money on me, especially considering my age."

Jackson's preoccupation with time is obvious. Like Sheringham, he is a late developer, despite having played in England's top division with Newcastle at the age of 20. His international career has blossomed in the last year and being with Celtic, rather than Hibs, will enhance his prospects if Scotland reach the World Cup finals.

"The Scotland thing has come late in my career," Jackson said, "and I'm trying to make up for lost time. I was a young boy when I was at Newcastle - I played alongside Mirandinha and Gazza in the side that got relegated - and I didn't appreciate how big a chance I had. Celtic have got an older and better Darren Jackson."

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