FARID EL ALAGUI is champing at the bit to return to action after recovering from the worst injury of his career.
The Hibs striker’s season has been seriously disrupted by an Achilles injury he suffered on Alloa Athletic’s artificial surface seven months ago. After playing the full 90 minutes and scoring in the Hibs Development Squad’s 3-2 defeat by Celtic on Tuesday, the Bordeaux-born Moroccan has a chance of being on the bench for this afternoon’s Championship trip to Raith Rovers.
“From my point of view, I would have loved to have been involved [against Rangers] last week on the bench,” he said. “But, if I am being really, really honest I wasn’t 100 per cent fit then. I would not say I am frustrated just now, I think ‘impatient’ is the right word.
“You want to play because you think you are fit to play. But when you do, you want to be 100 per cent sharp and as match-fit if not sharper than I was before. When you are on the edge of that you want to make things right, so it’s a bit tricky. If you ask a player if he’s 100 per cent, I would have played three weeks ago! But that maybe would not have benefited me or the team.
“It was good to get my first ninety minutes on Tuesday. I will discuss with the manager what he thinks and see if I need another one or if I can maybe be involved this weekend. I have to make sure I am 100 per cent. Maybe it’s not so important to be fit for this weekend, but for the next games coming. I don’t want to rush things now.”
El Alagui was involved in the squad for last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at home to Rangers. He wasn’t deemed ready for a place on the bench but was buoyed by being part of the pre-match routine once again. “On Saturday, it was good because we stayed in a hotel and I was involved with the team so it was good to feel part of the group again.”
This light at the end of tunnel is most welcome for El Alagui after more than half a year of mental and physical torment.
“The longest time I have been out before this was when I hurt my knee at Brentford. That was five months. This one has been a little longer, but hopefully it will also be the last!
“The other one was quite nasty as well because I damaged my ligaments but I didn’t need surgery, as opposed to this one where I did. I would say this one was the worst.
“It’s been more a mental thing than a physical one. It’s more about the mind than the body. You talk with the physios and they tell you you’ll be fine and to just enjoy yourself. So I have tried to do that and get on with it.
“Some moments you feel you have progressed really well – and then there are others when you don’t think you have progressed at all and that’s when you start to get frustrated.
“I would talk with the manager sometimes because he sees you and can tell how you are feeling and that helped. My family and my girlfriend also helped me get through it and helped me feel better and also more patient.
“Maybe at the four-month stage I felt I wasn’t really progressing. But when you talk with people you realise that isn’t that long and it could have been much worse.
“There were a lot of things about the rehab I didn’t really enjoy. The running wasn’t too bad because when you come back running you are excited to be out on the pitches again. But when you spend time in the pool and the bike and when you are in the gym you have to push yourself and that can be quite tough because most of the time you are on your own.
“I was lucky to be with Jordon Forster at the time, he was doing his rehab also so we were able to push each other in the gym.
“It’s been tough watching games, especially sitting in the stand at the start. That was very frustrating. But since then, the team has done very well and I have enjoyed watching them more. But it’s not something you get used to. There are times you see something and you just want to get out there on the pitch and help them.”
Despite only having made six appearances for Hibs since being recruited by head coach Alan Stubbs last summer, El Alagui helped himself to four goals before suffering his injury.
He is desperate to add to his tally in the coming weeks. “I just can’t wait to score for the first team and hit the net again and have that feeling,” he said. “That’s what I have missed the most.”