Dan Carmichael’s patience has been sorely tested over the past couple of months, the midfielder nowhere to be seen as Hibs have prepared for the new season.
But now the former Queen of the South player is ready to make up for lost time, finally fully fit having had his hopes of making an immediate impact at his new club shattered by a niggly groin injury.
The problem ruled the 25-year-old out of the pre-season training camp in the heat of La Manga in the south of Spain where, ironically, his old Palmerston Park team-mates were also enjoying the sunshine. The injury as so far prevented him pulling on his new No. 21 green and white shirt.
He has, though, been included in the squad for tomorrow’s Championship opener against Dumbarton along with fellow summer signings James Keatings and John McGinn, as Hibs aim to start their push for promotion second time round with three points.
Carmichael said: “I’m desperate to get involved. When you come to a new club you want to be part of it from the first minute, to hit the ground running and show what you can do. Unfortunately I had this problem in the area of my groin and stomach which they seem to think is something of a hangover from last season and artificial surfaces. We thought rest would be the cure but I’ve been working hard with the physios and fitness coaches on strengthening it up.
“I wasn’t able to travel to Spain – it would have been the first time I’d had a pre-season abroad. It was just something I had to get on with and it was better for me to be back here at East Mains getting one-to-one treatment. I’ve been training this week, it’s been going well so hopefully I can help the team get off to the best possible start.”
Faced with a lengthy injury list with Farid El Alagui and Martin Boyle recovering from knee surgery and Keatings ruled out with a hamstring problem. Head coach Alan Stubbs, who has since seen Danny Handling ruled out long term with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, made no secret of the fact he was targeting tomorrow as comeback day for the majority of his crocks.
As such he also refused to rush another new signing Marvin Bartley into action although the midfielder did make his debut in the League Cup victory over Montrose last weekend and Stubbs’ approach appears to have paid off with his squad obviously stronger than it was for the Petrofac Training Cup clash with title rivals Rangers.
And to that end Carmichael insisted the 6-2 defeat his new team-mates suffered that day can all but be ignored saying: “It was almost as if people were saying then ‘just give the title to Rangers now’, but that’s not the case. We had a lot of injuries but I thought we played well in the first half although I don’t know what happened after half-time.
“However, with everyone back we’ll be an entirely different proposition. To have so many injuries was unlucky but it’s better to have had them at this time than during the season. Now we’re not too far away, give it another week and everyone bar Danny, unfortunately, will be back training so it’s looking good.”
Stubbs further strengthened his squad in recent days with Hibs paying a six-figure sum to sign highly-rated St Mirren midfielder John McGinn who, like Carmichael and Keatings, turned his back on offers from Premierhsip clubs to join the Capital outfit.
Asked why that should be the case, Carmichael said: “I think it’s just the club. Hibs are such a massive club, much bigger than the other teams that were interested in me. This is a team that wants to go places, to get promoted. It was that challenge which spurred me on and hopefully we can live up to it.
“I think John McGinn is a great signing, he did well at St Mirren. There were a lot of teams interested in him but we’re just happy he’s come to Hibs. And then there’s also young Scott Martin who is just starting to make his way in the first team. I didn’t know too much about Scott when I first came in but in watching him and training with him he’s obviously a very good player.
“He’s been doing well and I don’t see why he can’t keep his place.”
While Queen of the South enjoyed an impressive record against Hibs last season, two wins and a draw in four clashes, Carmichael admitted he was left scratching his head as to just how they managed it. He said: “There were times we could hardly get a touch of the ball but somehow we always managed to nick a goal.
“Hibs’ style of play was terrific to watch, it was hard at times to work out who was meant to be playing where because everyone moves around so much. We’ve got a lot of flair players, positive players.”
And Carmichael believes the stability Stubbs has brought can be a key factor, pointing out how his old boss James Fowler has been left with a massive rebuilding job after he, Ian McShane, Mark Durnan, Kevin Holt and Gavin Reilly all left his hometown club while goalkeeper Zander Clark returned from his loan spell to St Johnstone.
Tomorrow’s opponents find themselves in a similar position as do a number of other Championship clubs whereas Stubbs has, in effect, been in a position simply to tinker with his squad. Carmichael said: “There’s been a few new faces come in like myself, but we’ve simply added to what was already a great squad and we all know we’ll have to work hard to get into the team.”