Hibs striker James Keatings today revealed how he feared his season was over as he felt his left knee “explode” only minutes after paving the way for the club’s first win in six matches.
Keatings had just seen his shot deflect off Dunfermline midfielder Nat Wedderburn and into the Pars net – cancelling out Kallum Higginbotham’s earlier opener at East End Park – when he went for a 50/50 ball with defender Jason Talbot.
But he was left in agony, a scan revealing he’d suffered a small tear in his medial ligament and although he’s been ruled out for six weeks, the 24-year-old admitted he believes he “got off lucky.”
In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, Keatings revealed he initially feared he’d torn his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury he’d suffered in his right knee as an 18-year-old with Celtic, one which put him out of action for eight months.
He said: “I knew right away it was serious. You know how I play, I want to go and shut people down, to put my foot in. I’d just scored, I was on a high and their left-back took a wee bit of a heavy touch and made it a 50/50.
“We hit the ball at the exact same time but my leg was dangling and I have taken the full impact of the ball. It’s one of those one-in-a-hundred sort of things that happens in football.
“When I went into the challenge I heard the ‘pop’ in my knee. I stood up and tried to run but after a few seconds I just felt my knee explode and knew I was looking at a bad one.”
A scan revealed the true extent of Keatings’ injury but, given what happened to him as a teenager, he actually counts himself as having enjoyed a stroke of luck. He said: “Obviously I’d have liked to have been told it was nothing more than a knock.
“But at the same time I was lucky because it could have been much worse. My initial fear was that it was my anterior cruciate ligament because the noise I heard this time was the same. I’d done my opposite knee when I was a kid at Celtic and was out for eight months so if it had been that then my season would probably have been over.
“The funny thing was that the pain the last time was nothing like this time, I was in pain from Saturday until Thursday night.”
Keatings won’t require an operation and has already started his rehabilitation work with the hope he’ll be back in boss Neil Lennon’s plans before Christmas.
He said: “It’s been a massive kick to me but it’s one of those things and I have to get over the disappointment, refocus on working hard and making sure I come back stronger and fitter.
“I’ll be looking to get back as soon as possible.I know I am in good hands with the staff we have here. I’ve started my rehab work, the pain has gone and I’m feeling good. Obviously, I’ll be guided by the medics and physios but it’s a case of building on the start I have made.
“It’s bitterly disappointing because I’d got myself into the team and I thought I’d been doing well, but now I have to recover from the injury, get myself back fit and look to get back into the side.”