Hibs boss Alan Stubbs today hailed derby day hero Farid El Alagui’s return to action but admitted fans won’t see the best of the striker until next season.
El Alagui played his first 90 minutes since rupturing his Achilles tendon almost seven months ago when the Hibees travelled to Dumbarton in midweek, missing a first-half penalty although Hibs went on to win 2-1 and halt a run of three successive defeats. But the 30-year-old was forgiven as he claimed an injury-time strike to secure a memorable 2-0 win over champions Hearts yesterday, one which keeps Hibs very much in the chase with Rangers for the runners-up spot in the Championship. El Alagui also played his part in Hibs’ opener, nodding down Fraser Fyvie’s ball for teenager Jason Cummings to claim his 17th goal of the season and his second in as many games against the Jambos.
However, while admitting El Alagui’s comeback is a timely boost, Stubbs said: “Farid has had a really tough six or seven months. It was a horrendous injury and I don’t think people have understood how bad it was.
“The fact he is even playing now is credit to him and the surgeon for the procedure he carried out. It’s great to have Farid back – he gives us something we have missed.
“Farid is going to get better, but he still isn’t where we would like him to be. He still needs a lot of strength and speed because he’s lacking a bit of that in his Achilles. But the only way he is going to get that is by playing games and working on his programme.”
But, while he expects the former Falkirk, Brentford and Dundee United hitman to continue to gain strength and match sharpness, Stubbs believes it won’t be until he gets a full pre-season training programme behind him this summer that fans will see the form which brought in four goals in his first five starts for Hibs.
He said: “It’s hard to put a number on it but Farid is probably about 85 per cent. I don’t think we will see Farid fully 100 per cent maybe until next season because it just does not happen overnight.
“He was pressing to come back early and I was holding him back because I just did not feel he was ready. I personally think you need four to six games so the fact we’ve thrown him in quicker than we thought has been an added bonus.
“It’s credit to him he’s played two full ninety minutes in four days but now he will need to recover well this week ahead of the Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk on Saturday but he has certainly been a major plus since he came back.”
Meanwhile, Stubbs believes Cummings will be fit for Hampden, revealing the striker had been suffering from cramp. He said: “Jason was cramping up in both calves and we took him off because of the cup game.
“If it is only cramp it is not a problem – we just didn’t want it to turn into a muscle injury.”