Hibernian defender Marvin Ekpiteta is counting on his hand the number of jobs he had when he was playing part-time football a few years ago. There are a lot of them. Just when I think he is going to continue counting on his other hand, he stops.

"I had so many different jobs. I couldn’t keep one longer than a couple of months because I just wanted to be a full-time footballer," he says. 

“Going to work was the last thing I wanted to do. I worked in retail, as a delivery driver, I worked in schools - that was probably the best job, working as a teaching assistant. I did some coaching, I worked in a bar. But it was always my goal to make it full-time. So I’d go to work in the morning and do my own training afterwards, just to help me get back into full-time."

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It is that drive and determination and putting in the hard yards that contributed to him sealing a move to Hibs and the Scottish Premiership, not long after leaving Blackpool as a free agent. But let's back up a few years, to the start of the journey.

“I started playing non-league when I was about 18.  I played Sunday League until I was 16 and then I went to an open trial at Oxford United for their college programme. I did that for a year, did really well, and got a scholarship after that.  I was at Oxford United for three years when they were in League Two but didn’t get a professional contract, so I dropped back down to playing part-time in the National League South for about three and a half years," he recalls. 

“I was playing part-time and working, and then got picked up by Leyton Orient when they were in the National League. They were full time and that was my first professional contract."

Hang on. Sunday League at 16 years old?  He laughs. 

“It was all I knew! I was playing with my friends and enjoying it. It was a local team, just around the corner - Broadwater United. They’re based in north London - Tottenham, which is where I’m from originally.  I was just enjoying my football, playing with my friends, learning - and that’s where I learned how to defend properly, at the grassroots level. Looking back now, it was hugely helpful for my career."

There were two occasions in Wednesday's friendly against MSV Duisburg when crosses came into the box and Ekpiteta leapt and headed both centres well clear of the penalty area. Satisfaction was etched on David Gray's face in the dugout. Given the problems Hibs had last season in terms of losing late goals, and the manner in which they lost them, having that sort of no-nonsense approach could be vital. 

So too could Ekpiteta's experience in the National League, where he came up against a variety of attackers.

"It helped me stay level-headed and take it one game at a time because you never know who you’re going to come up against," he explains. "Some players are trying to push on, some are just happy to get a paycheck, and some are coming down. It’s good to get the variety. I’ve played against small players, bigger players, aggressive players, players who run in behind. It’s a really good level and great for a younger player to learn their trade."

Ekpiteta is keen now for Hibs fans to see what he can do. He is also appreciative of the culture of finding players that have ability and character to match. 

“I know the club did deep research on all the new players they’ve brought in this summer, so they know they’re not bringing in any characters who are going to hinder the group. I’m happy that they’re happy with my character and the way I carry myself and I know I’ll be a good asset for the team and the club," he says. 

The tattoo on his arm offers an insight into his journey from being released by Oxford United to joining Hibs in the Scottish Premiership. It reads, 'No struggle, no progress'. 

"It’s from when I got let go by Oxford, so I got it when I just turned 18," Ekpiteta says. 

“It’s kept me going. I just knew that I had to make it. I had to get out. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, I didn’t know where I was going or where my life was going to go. Where I come from, it’s quite a rough area and I didn’t want to get involved or drop into anything I didn’t want to do. I just knew I had to stay focused and keep pushing. I was young but I knew I was good enough, so that kept me going, and seeing so many players move from non-league into the professional league around that time helped me keep the faith."

Ekpiteta has already ticked several boxes in his career. The sort of determination and drive that got him where he is today should stand him in good stead when he pulls on a Hibs shirt - and he may well tick off even more boxes.