Hibs defender Paul Hanlon is hoping to bring his injury hell to an end this week by getting the green light to resume full-time training.
Hanlon has started just one match since the beginning of January, troubled by a pelvic problem which ultimately required surgery after an injection which was hoped would cure the problem failed.
However, the 27-year-old later admitted the operation left him feeling worse than before and he has missed the Easter Road club’s first two pre-season friendlies, the 4-0 win over Dunfermline and team-mate Lewis Stevenson’s testimonial match against Sunderland, which ended in a 2-2 draw.
Fellow defender Efe Ambrose also missed both games, head coach Neil Lennon revealing the Nigerian internationalist was having “a longer than expected break”.
However, Lennon insisted it was not an issue saying: “Efe is having a break but it will be no problem. He should be in this week and the shape he is in won’t take him long to get back up to speed. It’s not an issue.”
Asked about Hanlon, Lennon said: “Paul is still not fit. He’s been to see a specialist ... hopefully he will get the all clear to resume full-time training, which will be a big boost for us because he was outstanding first half of last season.
“It’s been a long time and frustrating, but he feels he has got to the bottom of it now.”
Striker Anthony Stokes and ex-Hibs defender Steven Whittaker were among a number of Stevenson’s former team-mates who watched their old club fight back from going 2-0 down to the Black Cats yesterday to earn a 2-2 draw with goals from Martin Boyle and Simon Murray.
Stokes, two-goal hero of Hibs Scottish Cup win of 2016, has been linked with a third spell at Easter Road, but according to Lennon he’s closer to bringing Whittaker back now he is a free agent having been released by Norwich.
He said: “It’s speculation. It’s difficult to keep things quiet, but we are on look out for attacking players as we are a bit thin. I know fans get a bit impatient, but the window is open until the end of August, there are 55 days to go.
“Whittaker may take maybe another week or so with talks and trying to persuade Steven. I’m hoping for a positive outcome. We are working away and we aren’t far away from bringing one player in. You’ll just have to watch this space.”
On the Sunderland match itself, Lennon said: “It was a good game. I was really pleased with first half even although we went a goal down. We played well, we fatigued a bit at start of second half, but they made a number of changes and were fresher.
“We came back strongly so I was very pleased. There was a bit of rust it was only our second game and not many have had 90 minutes. Some of our football was excellent.”