Fit-again Hibs trio like new signings, says Stubbs

The return of Farid El Alagui and Dylan McGeouch, below, will boost Hibs

The return of Farid El Alagui and Dylan McGeouch, below, will boost Hibs

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ALAN STUBBS today claimed having long-term injury victims Farid El Alagui, Jordon Forster and Dylan McGeouch fit again will be like having three new signings – just as he looks to further strengthen his squad in the January transfer window.

Between them the trio have missed 34 matches so far this season but, while their absence has undoubtedly influenced results, Stubbs insisted that rather than feel sorry for himself he was looking forward to having them back in his plans.

Striker El Alagui has been missing since the end of August, a snapped achilles tendon ruling him out of Hibs’ last 16 games. Forster has had an operation to remove his appendix just as he prepared to return from a broken foot sustained in mid-October, the defender having been sidelined for ten matches, while McGeouch has been absent since the end of October following ankle surgery,

Midfielder McGeouch, on loan from Celtic, is at the head of the queue for a return but Stubbs hopes to have all three back by the end of next month, although that good news will be tempered by the fact full-back David Gray requires a groin operation and top scorer Dominique Malonga will depart to play for Congo in the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations.

However, by the time Malonga returns, Stubbs believes he will not only have McGeouch, Forster and El Alagui back in action, but a number of new signings in place, with Swedish goalkeeper Marcus Sandberg, American striker Jack McBean and former Colchester United winger Dominic Vose having all been on trial at Easter Road and further possible targets still to be assessed.

Stubbs said: “We’ve lost these players for substantial periods so come the end of the transfer window it will be like having three new players in the squad. It’s been a blow to lose them for so long, it appears to have been one thing after another but, while you could feel sorry for yourself, that’s not my way of thinking.

“You have to deal with the cards you’ve been dealt in football. We’ve had a few setbacks, a lot of injuries, but I feel we will come out the other end stronger. The lads who have played have done really well to come through it and get the good results we have enjoyed but when these three return we will be a lot stronger.”

The timing of Gray’s operation remains unclear with both player and head coach hoping he can negotiate not only today’s match against Rangers but next weekend’s derby with Hearts before having surgery. Stubbs admitted, though, he intended to sign another defender in the coming weeks in any case. He said: “We knew anyway that we wanted to bring someone in who would be able to fill in that position once David goes for his operation.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean a right-back – we can go to a back three if we want – but someone who can be flexible.”