Ofir Marciano today insisted the loss of Scotland midfielder John McGinn won’t blow Hibs’ title bid off course.
The 22-year-old has undergone surgery to “shave” a piece of calcified bone from his left ankle and has been ruled out of action for eight weeks.
Manager Neil Lennon had hoped McGinn, who he rates as the best midfielder in the Championship, could continue to play through the pain barrier and postpone going under the knife until at least after next Friday’s crunch clash with second-placed Dundee United.
But the trip to Tannadice will be the first match McGinn will miss after finally admitting the pain was getting too much, his absence an obvious loss to a Hibs side which has been putting a string of impressive performances together, culminating in their best display of the season as they demolished Queen of the South 4-0 last weekend.
However, while agreeing he would much rather have the team’s driving force on the coach to Tayside, Israeli internationalist Marciano insisted the squad has the strength in depth to cope.
The 27-year-old said: “First of all I want to wish John good luck and hope he is healthy.
“For sure, it is a big loss for us because he is a very important player for the team. However, whoever comes in to replace him will do the job and we’ll help him do it. I am sure it is going to be fine.”
Marciano admitted he and his team-mates had been impressed by McGinn’s determination to continue playing. He said: “You’ve seen how he has dealt with this injury and how much he has sacrificed for the team.
“It’s very good to see a player prepared to make that sacrifice and we appreciate that.”
Dylan McGeouch, who himself has overcome a hamstring injury to make an appearance as a substitute in each of Hibs’ past two matches, and Marvin Bartley, who has found himself sitting on the bench in recent weeks, would appear to be the obvious candidates to step in for McGinn although Lennon, obviously, may have to make alterations to the team formation to compensate.
To have such players available does, argued Marciano, underline the strength in depth of the squad. He said: “We are a strong team – it’s not just John McGinn. We have a lot of good players in the squad.
“I’m sure that whoever replaces him will do a good job. We are not worried about that. We’re going to miss him for sure for these two months, but it’s our job to cover for him and get good results for the club.”
Marciano had his own injury scare, picking up a knee knock while preparing for Israel’s World Cup qualifying match in Albania earlier in the month.
He returned to Edinburgh for a scan which, he admitted, was a worrying moment and, although the problem didn’t turn out to be as serious as he might have feared, he still missed the 1-1 draw against Falkirk in which Ross Laidlaw deputised for him.
He said: “No-one likes to be injured. When it happened. I tried to be positive although it was scary. But with good work in the gym and good rehab I have got over that.
“It’s scary to be injured because this is what we do and no-one likes to be out.”
Having been on such a good run of form, Hibs are now three points clear at the top of the table and will double that advantage should they beat United.
But a number of Marciano’s team-mates have insisted they’d rather be playing this weekend than being idle as they find themselves with the third round of the Scottish Cup embracing a number of Championship teams but not the holders.
However, Marciano, on a season-long loan from Israeli outfit Ashdod, believes the break from action can actually help Lennon’s players. He said: “It’s disappointing not to have a game but sometimes it is good for players who are injured to get time to recover.
“Sometimes you play injured and then you make it worse, so sometimes it is good to get a break to recover.
“We are professional players so sometimes we need to deal with three games in a week and have to prepare ourselves for everything. But, at other times, it is good we have this kind of break.”
Not surprisingly, Marciano was at Celtic’s Champions League match against Barcelona, the goalkeeper a firm friend of Hoops midfielder Nir Bitton who has become a regular visitor to Easter Road, sitting among the fans to enjoy the victory over Queens having also taken in the Falkirk match.
And, he revealed, his fellow Israeli thoroughly enjoys the football he is seeing in the east end of Edinburgh.
He said: “I support him, and he supports me. We are good friends like that, we have a good connection.
“It was good to see the best players in the world on Wednesday night but Nir actually likes coming here. He asked me if he could come to the game because he enjoys the atmosphere of the stadium and around the club. It’s nice.”