Considering all the niggling injuries that have disrupted Dylan McGeouch’s progress over the past few years, the Hibs midfielder knows he can’t take anything for granted when it comes to his fitness.
Nonetheless, the 23-year-old has reason for tentative optimism after coming through his most sustained period of training this season unscathed and subsequently surviving the full 90 minutes of his first start in eight weeks against Dundee United on Friday.
Although the top-of-the-table showdown at Tannadice ended in a 1-0 defeat for Hibs, McGeouch could at least take solace from the fact there are genuine signs that the hamstring problem which has intermittently plagued his campaign thus far appears to be subsiding.
“I was obviously disappointed with the result but it was a psychological boost just to get through the 90 minutes and for everything to be okay,” McGeouch said. “I felt alright in the game but I tired towards the end because I’ve not played a lot of first-team football lately. It’s natural that you tire but it felt good to be back out there, getting a touch of the ball again. It was a tough game so to come through the full 90 will have done me the world of good.
“I’m looking to have another good week’s training and be ready to get another 90 against Dumbarton and then pick my performances up to help drive the team on. I played a full game for the under-20s a few weeks ago but that’s not the same intensity, so getting that 90 minutes under my belt for the first team can only do me good.”
McGeouch has thus far been able to string together no more than three consecutive games this season because of a hamstring problem which first surfaced in the summer and has continued to flare up at various points. “I picked it up at the start of the season and it just came back a few times,” he said, explaining the nature of the problem. “The hamstrings are a nightmare to get 100 per cent. I would be feeling good but then pull it in training again. But that’s four or five weeks now that I’ve been back training and playing under-20s games and getting bits and bobs of the first-team games and I’ve not had any worries with it. This has been the best period I’ve had for a while in terms of not having any problems.”
The most recent spell on the sidelines represented McGeouch’s longest so far this season because Neil Lennon and Hibs’ medical staff were determined to ensure he would be fully fit when fellow midfielder John McGinn eventually had to have surgery on a niggling problem. That moment has now arrived, and the former Celtic player believes that being nursed back gradually this time could be the key factor in ensuring that he is over his injury once and for all.
“Maybe rushing back too early and not giving the hamstring enough time to settle has been the problem,” said McGeouch. “Hopefully now that I’ve been out the team for a few weeks and given it a bit more time to recover will mean that’s the end of it and I can go on a run of playing regularly and doing well for the team again.”
This season’s injury woe has been particularly demoralising for McGeouch because it has afflicted him a time when he had just managed to get the groin problem that disrupted last season for him under control. “Last season, it was more of a pelvic/groin problem, which I’m still working on,” he said. “I’m still doing strength sessions in the gym and Pilates and other things to strengthen everything up. Touch wood, I’ve not had any problems with that injury this year. Hopefully I’m over the hamstring problem now as well, and that’ll be me back to get a good injury-free run for the rest of the season.”
McGeouch knows there is an onus on the likes of himself and Marvin Bartley to stay fit and hit form in the coming weeks as McGinn and Fraser Fyvie face a period sidelined by injury. “It’s unfortunate that a few of the boys have picked up injuries but it’s an opportunity for myself and big Barts to go in and grab a place for the next wee while,” he said. “Because of the injuries to the other boys, I knew I’d be involved in some way on Friday. It’s not something I can control but there is an extra pressure on me to make sure I stay fit at a time like this, and I’ll be working hard to do that. Now that I’m getting minutes under my belt, I’ll be looking to improve my performances.”
A string of injuries have played a major part in stalling the progress of McGeouch since he shot to prominence as one of Scotland’s most highly-regarded teenagers in his time with both Rangers and Celtic. Although he has won the Scottish Cup with Hibs and shown enough in his two and a bit years in Edinburgh to suggest that he is the most technically-gifted player at the club, there is still a feeling that fitness woes have prevented the 23-year-old from fulfilling his potential thus far.
McGeouch admits he’s desperate for a sustained injury-free period so he can start proving just how good he is. “Anybody who’s had lots of niggles will tell you how frustrating it is because you just want your body to be alright and let you go out and play every Saturday,” he said. “Picking up injuries is part of football but hopefully I can get by that now.
“I believe in myself and I believe I can bring something to the team, so it’s frustrating when you’re injured. I’m looking at a lot of different things, like my diet and doing extra sessions, and just trying to tick all the boxes to give myself the best chance to stay fit. Touch wood, that’s a month now that I’ve been training every week and not missed a session, so hopefully I can keep that going and not have any more hiccups between now and the end of the season.”