Hibernian's James Keatings eyes top-flight stay at third time of asking

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland
Hibs striker James Keatings
Hibs striker James Keatings hopes to sign a new contract at Easter Road

Hibernian forward James Keatings is determined to finally enjoy the rewards of a successful Scottish Championship promotion campaign.

Hibs' title win marks the third time Keatings has been involved in a promotion-winning side.

But previously he left Hamilton Accies and Hearts prior to their Premiership campaigns commencing.

"I'm very happy here. It's a great club, I feel at home. There's no other place I want to be," he said.

Keatings is out of contract this summer, but the 25-year-old revealed to BBC Scotland: "I've been offered a new contract here.

"My agent's still talking to the club and things are going well, so hopefully I'm with the club next season in the Premiership.

"It's one thing I've always wanted to do, but in the last few years, I've felt the better thing for me was joining the clubs in the Championship."

Keatings started his career at Celtic before joining Accies then the two Edinburgh clubs.

"When I went up with Hamilton, Hearts came calling and I thought it was a massive chance for me to play for a big club and it was the same when Hearts went up," he said.

"I still had a year left and I could have stayed if I'd wanted to, but I spoke to the people at Hibs and it was a massive opportunity again to play under Alan Stubbs and the new manager here now and it's been a great thing for me.

"Last season, winning the Scottish Cup was something I always wanted to do and never thought it would happen.

"Obviously achieving that and now winning the Championship - as a player you want to be winning things and playing at top clubs you're always giving yourself a chance of doing that."

However, Keatings and his team-mates aren't resting on their laurels nor basking in their title glory.

Hibs striker James Keatings
Hibs striker James Keatings scored in the 2-1 win over title-rivals Falkirk last month

A Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen is approaching this weekend and a chance to move a step closer to retaining the trophy that eluded them for 114 years prior to last May's victory over Rangers.

"I think it'll be an even game," said Keatings of facing the side sitting second in the Premiership.

"Aberdeen are a very good outfit, as they've shown over the last few years, and it's going to be a difficult game, but we're more than capable.

"It'll be open - Aberdeen won't put 10 men behind the ball. They'll try to play. Obviously that opens up a lot of space on the pitch and kind of helps us as well.

"As we've shown when we've played Premiership teams, when they come at us, we're able to play much better football, we see the spaces we don't get in the Championship.

"We'll be confident we can get it done."

That confidence also leads Keatings to believe Hibs won't simply be going into the Premiership with the aim of consolidating their newly-regained top-flight status.

"The club we're at, you're always going to have expectations of aiming high and I'm sure that would be top six and see where that could take us - if we could push further," he added.

"You've got a great team here, a great squad - a lot of top players. It's just about holding on to them and keep building the squad.

"I'm sure the manager will have his targets of who he'd like to add. It's building that squad as strong as you can for the Premiership and pushing as far as you can go.

"The club belongs in the top league - it's got all the facilities, the fans, the stadium - and we're delighted we're finally there.

"You want to play against the best players in the best stadiums and show how good a team we are and how good an individual you are."

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