Hibs’ latest signing Ross Laidlaw today revealed how he ended up in intensive care with a lacerated kidney after a freak training ground accident.
Goalkeeper Laidlaw thought he’d suffered nothing more than a cracked rib after colliding with then Raith Rovers team-mate Ross Callachan, the innocuous sort of incident he’d encountered a hundred times before.
But he was stunned at the severity of the injury which ruled him out of the second half of last season, the 23-year-old only getting the green light to resume full training a few weeks ago.
However, Laidlaw was delighted to be asked in to train at East Mains, impressing sufficiently to earn himself a one-year deal as he became new boss Neil Lennon’s second signing following the arrival of experienced striker Grant Holt.
Although he spent six years at Stark’s Park, Laidlaw admits he didn’t play as many games for Raith as he would have liked, just 37 appearances after making his debut in a 5-0 League One win over Morton in 2012 although he was between the sticks when the Kirkcaldy club shocked Terry Butcher’s Hibs by knocking them out of the Scottish Cup two years later.
The Linglithgow-born played gained further experience at Elgin but a combination of injuries and being a young goalkeeper vying for a place with David McGurn and then Kevin Cuthbert limited his opportunities before that traumatic blow at the turn of the year.
The 6ft 5in stopper said: “It was about Christmas time it happened. It was the sort of bump to my side I’ve had a hundred times before but I went down and was taken to hospital believing I’d cracked a rib – but it was my kidney. The doctors said they had never seen anything like it.
“I’d torn it and that put me out for the rest of the season. The problem was there wasn’t a specialist in Scotland to deal with it and it took a while to find the right person. My kidney was lacerated and needed to be glued back together. I was in a high-dependency unit in Glasgow for a few days, was in hospital for a week and then didn’t leave my house for eight weeks because of the severity of it.
“After that I was back doing a bit of light training and it wasn’t until a week after the season finished I got the all clear, that I was alright.”
Laidlaw did have an offer from Raith but when he heard of Hibs’ interest he jumped at the opportunity. He said: “I think Alan Combe [Hibs goalkeeping coach] rated me and wanted to bring me in so I’ve been working hard with the other goalkeepers. It’s a massive club, I really enjoyed it and I was delighted to get a contract sorted out.”
The Hibs goalkeeping situation may appear to be in a state of flux at the moment, Mark Oxley, the recognised No.1 of the past two seasons, looking as if he’ll be joining English League One club Southend United despite having a year of his contract remaining, leaving Lennon with Finnish Under-21 goalkeeper Otso Virtanen, as yet untested in the Championship and Laidlaw although 19-year-old West Brom goalie Alex Palmer is expected to feature in tomorrow’s friendly against Motherwell and the manager continues to look for another signing in that position.
Laidlaw said: “I’m trying to get myself as fit as I can having not played last season. I didn’t play as many games as I would have liked at Raith but as a young goalkeeper it is always harder to break through which is understandable. Every year at Raith there was an experienced guy ahead of me, Kevin Cuthbert did well last season and David McGurn the season before.
“It is frustrating but with injuries and experience it was hard for me to break through. But I’ve signed for a year and it’s a case of coming in every day, working hard in training and hoping to impress.”
Laidlaw is under no illusions as to the importance of this season, Hibs having failed twice to win promotion with the Championship title very much the objective this time round.
He said: “This year we really need to step up and get promotion, it would be very disappointing if we didn’t. I live only a couple of minutes from Falkirk’s stadium so I went to the play-off game and I thought Hibs were a bit unlucky that night.
“When I saw Hibs against Raith I thought they looked a really good side. They knocked the ball around and played really good football. Now, being in training at East Mains, you realise there are a lot of really talented football players at this club.”
• Berwick Rangers have signed left-back Sean Mackie and midfielder Ben Stirling, both 17, on loan from Hibs until the January transfer window. The two youngsters will still be available to play for Hibs’ Development Squad,