Pat Fenlon today revealed the lengthy injury list which has blighted the first three months of Hibs’ season is finally begining to ease.
The Easter Road boss has had to contend with up to seven first-team regulars being sidelined at any one time as the Capital club has recovered from a poor start to the campaign to push their way into the upper half of the Premiership table.
But while Michael Nelson, having suffered a suspected fractured eye socket which threatens to put him out of action for a number of weeks, has joined a casualty list which still includes Alex Harris, Tim Clancy and Sam Stanton, Fenlon hopes the options open to him continue to grow.
Club skipper James McPake was today due to play his first League match of the season as a direct replacement for Nelson, having been forced to exercise a degree of patience on the subs bench after recovering from a back spasm, while Paul Cairney – who has yet to kick a ball in anger having sustained ankle ligament damage – is also vying for a place again.
So, too, are teenage forward Danny Handling who has been missing with a foot injury, 20-year-old centre back Jordon Forster (groin) and veteran defender Alan Maybury (thigh), while Ryan McGivern and Owain Tudur Jones have set about reclaiming their first-team places in recent weeks.
Today Fenlon reported that Harris, who broke a bone in his right ankle against Motherwell on the opening day of the season, and Stanton, out with a hip knock, are both making progress as is Clancy who hasn’t played since April due to a groin problem which has required surgery.
Despite the various injuries, though, Fenlon believes a greater strength in depth this season has allowed his squad to cope with the absentees, pointing out how even such an influential figure as McPake has had to await the opportunity now presented to regain his place.
He said: “James has been ready to play for the last three or four weeks which has been a great plus. It changes like that for players, there are suspensions and injuries, you get the opportunity to play and you have to go and grasp it. It’s the same for everyone, not just James.
“But last year we’d maybe have had to play him on the basis he might not have been 100 per cent just because he was needed. That was something we obviously looked at to make sure we have got strength in depth, but also to not stop the progress of the younger players.
“Young Jordon has been unlucky, he came in at the end of last season and did really well. He’s been out for the last four or five weeks with a niggle, came back and picked up another niggle. But he’s trained this week and hopefully he stays fit to challenge James. Michael and Paul Hanlon.
“It’s harder for Tim as he out for a long time. He made real progress then had a little setback when he played in an East of Scotland game about four weeks ago and felt a little twinge, so we took him off. I think we are looking at two weeks before he comes back in to training and we want to make sure we get it right.
“Paul [Cairney], who has played in the last two or three Under-20 games, was in and around the squad last week and is in the squad again today. Alex is still a little bit away. He’s had the protective boot he was wearing removed but he has a bit of strengthening work to do.
“But hopefully within two or three weeks we should have most of them back and available to play which will be great.”