Fraser Fyvie has good reason to remember his one and only trip to Alloa, even if it lasted just 47 minutes.
Only 17, but a year after he’d made his debut for Aberdeen, the midfielder was left lying in agony at what was then still called Recreation Park, the cruciate ligament in his left knee having snapped as he caught his studs in the artificial surface.
The Wasps’ “plastic pitch” was then condemned by then Dons boss Mark McGhee, who called for such surfaces to be banned, declaring: “They are not conducive to high-powered change of direction or deceleration.”
Today, almost five years on from that League Cup tie, the surface at the re-named Indodrill Stadium continues to provoke debate. Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs freely admits he much prefers grass, although he’s stressed that the underfoot conditions at a ground where striker Farid El Alagui ruptured his Achilles tendon as he landed awkwardly last August won’t be an excuse if his side fail to win tomorrow’s Championship clash.
However, as far as Fyvie is concerned he won’t give the events of August 2010 a second thought. The midfielder said: “Will it be at the back of my mind? Not at all. If the pitch hasn’t changed then it won’t be very good, but we’ll deal with it, the manager will have his game plan aimed at getting the three points.”
While Fyvie won’t dwell on things, he does remember all too well the trauma visited on him, the injury putting him out of action until the final three games of the season.
He said: “It was hard for me. I was establishing myself in the team, but the treatment I got at Aberdeen under the physios, David Wylie and John Sharp, was sensational. They got me back to full fitness and I was very thankful to them. It was like having to start all over again when I was fit, but Mark McGhee was great with me.
“He’d given me my chance and he fed me back into the side when I came back at the end of the season. He put me in for the last two or three games just to get a bit of fitness and confidence back, which was great.”
Fyvie was a fixture in the Pittodrie side the following season, playing 33 matches for the Dons before Wigan Athletic paid a reputed £500,000 for him. The by-then Aberdeen manager, Craig Brown, said at the time that Fyvie had the potential to be the best midfielder he had ever worked with: no little praise from the ex-Scotland boss who had worked with the likes of Paul McStay, John Collins, Paul Lambert and Barry Ferguson.
Brown went on to state: “He has that bit extra quality that helped Paul Scholes become one of the best midfielders in Europe. If he continues as he has then he has the potential to be the best of the lot.”
Although Fyvie picked up an FA Cup winner’s medal with Wigan – an unused substitute as they pulled off a shock Wembley win over Manchester City – he found himself loaned to Yeovil and then Shrewsbury, and after playing just one game this season negotiated his release and found himself snapped up within hours by Stubbs on a deal until the end of the season. Fyvie arrived in Edinburgh – Stubbs no doubt having been tipped off by his first team coach John Doolan, whom he’d recruited from Wigan – to further strenghten competition for places in an already strong midfield, a challenge he insisted immediately appealed to him.
He said: “I knew the likes of Dylan McGeouch and Scotty Allan from playing for Scotland Under-21s and from when we were younger and a lot of the other lads from playing against them when I was at Aberdeen. And Fonts [Liam Fontaine] I knew from having been on loan at Yeovil so I’ve settled in fine and I’m really enjoying it, happy to be playing football again.
“I knew when I was coming up I was joining a great squad, one that’s very competitive in terms of places, and I think that’s helped. It’s always good when you look at a squad and see quality players to play alongside. And they’ve helped me in the last couple of weeks, getting used to playing again.”
Fyvie has featured in all three of Hibs’ matches since his transfer deadline day arrival, all ending in victory. Perhaps his most noticeable contribution was the pass which led to Lewis Stevenson scoring the clinching second goal against Rangers at Ibrox.
He said: “It was good to set up a goal, but I felt it was a great team performance. Even though we didn’t play as well as the manager expected, we ground out a result through team effort.”
Dumbarton proved to be a different propostion last week, getting as many bodies behind the ball as possible in a bid to frustrate Hibs, and Fyvie expects more of the same against Alloa tomorrow. Barry Smith’s side are desperate for the points which will drag them away from the threat of the relegation play-offs, their cause helped no end by a 2-0 victory over Cowdenbeath at Central Park.
Fyvie said: “It was a matter of patience [against Dumbarton]. The manager gave us a game plan to go from side-to-side, to run them down and eventually we would get a goal. We did that, went in 2-0 at half time, got a third and that killed the game off and we kept possession very well thereafter.
“We know we’ll get another difficult game tomorrow but we’ll be going there looking to win the game. The manager sets out what he wants from us and the simple aim in every game is to get the three points.”
And with McGeouch, Allan and himself to supply the ammunition, Fyvie believes Hibs have the firepower in the shape of Dominique Malonga, Franck Dja Djedje, Jason Cummings and Martin Boyle to finish off any opposition.
He said: “It’s a joy to have strikers in the form these guys are in, you know that if you find them then there’s a good chance you’ll end up with an assist. I’m not renowned as a goalscorer myself, but that’s something I’d like to add to my game.”