Butcher hopes Hibs’ Harris will return for derby

Alex Harris is working back towards full fitness
Alex Harris is working back towards full fitness
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Hibs boss Terry Butcher today revealed he hopes to have teenage winger Alex Harris back in action for the visit of Hearts on January 2.

Harris has been sidelined since the opening day of the Scottish Premiership season, the victim of a crunching tackle from Motherwell defender Shaun Hutchinson which broke a bone in his right ankle. An operation was required to insert a pin to help the bone knit and further surgery to remove it but the 19-year-old’s rehabilitation has been progressing well, leading Butcher to be cautiously optimistic that a return isn’t too far away.

Revealing that the former Edinburgh Academy pupil was the only player to have braved Thursday’s storm, training outside at East Mains as the remainder of the squad sought refuge in the centre’s indoor “barn,” Butcher said: “Alex is coming on well. He’s maybe two or three weeks away at the moment but he is working very hard. I would like him fit for January 2, of course, but we will wait and see.”

The absence of Harris, allied to that of fellow midfielder Paul Cairney, who suffered serious ankle ligament damage on the eve of the second leg of the Europa League tie against Malmo, led Butcher’s predecessor Pat Fenlon to bemoan a lack of width in his side. But, with former Partick Thistle star Cairney fit again – playing in each of the new manager’s first two games in charge – Butcher is now looking forward to the day when he’ll have both wide men at his disposal.

He said: “Alex is a good prospect and I’d like to get him back sooner rather than later, obviously. But this is the first major injury he has had in his career so he has no experience to fall back on as to how far he can push his body or knowledge of how much his body will take. He is coming along all right.”

Although James McPake is facing surgery on his recurring back problem, Butcher’s options in defence have increased, with Michael Nelson – albeit wearing a protective face mask – back in contention following his shattered cheekbone.

Tim Clancy finally appears to be over the surgery he had on a nagging groin injury, the right-back playing two full matches in the space of four days. The Irishman scored a spectacular free-kick in the Under-20s’ 7-1 demoliton of Dunferline, having also featured in the 7-1 victory over Eyemouth in the East of Scotland League. However, with the former Kilmarnock and Motherwell player having not played top-flight football since April, Butcher believes he’ll need another couple of games before his first-team return.