Chris Cadden eager to make up for lost time after Hibs injury nightmare
Many Hibs fans might have been surprised to see Chris Cadden’s name in the starting line-up to face Hearts at Tynecastle Park.
The 24-year-old hasn’t featured for Hibs since a substitute appearance against Rangers at Ibrox in April and returned to the matchday squad for the first derby of the 2021/22 campaign, putting in an impressive shift for virtually the full 90 minutes as both goalkeepers caught the eye in a goalless draw that allowed the two rivals to extend their unbeaten starts to the campaign.
"I was thrown in at the deep end but I enjoyed it, loved every minute,” Cadden told the Evening News after a breathless encounter in Gorgie.
“I came to Hibs to play in these sorts of games and when I found out I was starting there were a few nerves but mostly I was just excited to get back out there.”
Cadden started on the right of a midfield four as Jack Ross shook up his tactics and lined up his team in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Martin Boyle, Kevin Nisbet, and James Scott forming the front three and interchanging throughout the first half.
In the second period Ross tweaked his set-up with Cadden eventually ending up on the left of a midfield four before making way for Drey Wright shortly before the end.
The versatile wideman hadn’t even made the bench in recent weeks as he stepped up his comeback from a spell on the sidelines. A somewhat freak injury had ruled him out of the last few weeks of the 2020/21 campaign and a further setback suffered during pre-season delayed his comeback even further.
"We’ve had a few injuries in the squad but I’ve been training for a few weeks now and trying to do as well as I can to get back into the team as quickly as possible. The gaffer gave me a chance and I was absolutely buzzing,” he explained.
"It’s been a long time coming but I’m delighted to be back.”
Cadden made 12 appearances for Hibs following his move from MLS side Columbus Crew in January and offered something extra in the wide areas, so it was a particular blow for the player and the team when he was ruled out for three months after discovering he had fractured his back.
"It’s probably up there with the most frustrating times in my career,” Cadden admitted. “I came here and went straight into the team and then suddenly I was out, and the sort of injury it was… when I went for the scan I thought I would only be out for a couple of weeks, but then I found out there was a fracture.”
Already likened by some Hibs fans to the Duracell bunny for his boundless energy, 12 weeks of rest was an extra layer of disappointment on top of Cadden’s original diagnosis.
"It was three months of doing nothing. I’m a pretty active person so it was tough, tough times but I’ve kept my head up.
"I’ve got good people around me and they got me through it.”
Finally able to resume training in the summer, Cadden worked hard in pre-season, only to be subjected to another stint on the sidelines after a suffering a torn thigh muscle.
It was an agonising chain of events for the utility man and he paid tribute to the Hibs medical staff for helping back to full fitness for a second time.
"Through my time out I just worked hard and came back, and got a little bit of a setback, so to come out again was a little bit frustrating. I had to come back and keep my head but the gaffer and the physios and medical staff have all been brilliant with me, so credit to them; I’m back now and I feel good,” he added.
Ross expressed his sympathy following the second prognosis, adding: “We’re looking at about six weeks which is a real blow for Chris because he’d worked hard to come back from the fracture on his back.”
Cadden is now eager to put a run of games together and help Hibs build on their strong start to the season. With his ability to operate as a right-back, on either flank, or even in the middle of the park there are plenty of opprtunities for him to help the Capital club continue their run of form.
He is yet to play in front of a full crowd at Easter Road but is determined to build on his return to action by showing the fans what he can bring to the team.
"Hopefully,” he says, when asked if the supporters are still to see the best of him. “That’s what I’m aiming to do. I don’t think I had a single injury in two and a half years before coming to Hibs and when I came here I was just desperate, desperate to play so to get the first injury so soon after arriving was frustrating, yeah.”
Cadden is almost matter-of-fact about his five months away from the first team with just a brief pre-season outing his only game-time prior to Sunday’s match.
"It wasn’t the start I wanted to my Hibs career but there’s nothing I can do about it – that’s professional football, it’s elite sport; injuries happen,” he shrugs.
"Hopefully I’m over all that now and I can just kick on and do my best for the team.”