Hibs star Michael Nelson was today hoping to have forced his way into boss Terry Butcher’s Scottish Cup plans after completing the entire 90 minutes of his comeback match.
The 33-year-old appeared as an over-age player as Hibs Under-20s crushed Hamilton Accies 4-0 at New Douglas Park – Jason Cummings scoring a hat-trick after Ross Caldwell’s opener – in what was Nelson’s first taste of action since shattering his cheekbone against Celtic more than a month ago.
Nelson wore a specially fitted face mask to protect the injury – three broken bones which had required surgery – but, having suffered no complications since the operation and having now pulled on a jersey again, he has his fingers crossed he’ll be in Butcher’s plans for Saturday’s cup tie at Ross County.
The big defender had been an ever-present following his surprise move from Bradford City up until he clashed heads with Hoops substitute Amido Balde in a match which, ironically, resulted in Celtic boss Neil Lennon accusing Hibs of “rough house tactics,” a charge which brought a furious response from Nelson and team-mate Rowan Vine.
But with James McPake having suffered a recurrence of a back problem and Tim Clancy yet to play this season having undergone surgery for the groin injury which had troubled him for a good part of last season, Nelson’s return will offer Butcher a further option at the back, an area in which Hibs have been short of numbers for much of the campaign.
Although unable to play, Nelson has helped maintain his fitness by running with the club’s physios, heading the ball with no-one challenging him and this week moved on to full contact training with his team-mates.
He said: “There’s no good time to get injured. You’ve just got to take it on the chin and move on. I’m fully back now – four weeks from the operation was the time frame to get back in full contact and tomorrow it will be five weeks.
“It’s up to me to do well in training and try to prove myself to the manager. I wished I could have got the operation on the Monday after it happened and then I would have been back in time for last week’s game. I was a bit disappointed I wasn’t fit to try and prove myself in the manager’s first game. Now I’ve just got to try and force my way into his plans.”
The fall-out from the Celtic game continues today with Vine facing an SFA charge following a social media spat with Lennon who had branded a challenge by him on Darnell Fisher as “rugby-esque.”
The Hibs forward is accused under Rule 29 of “making offensive comments on Twitter suggesting the use of violence,” and faces a range of sanctions from censure to a ban.