EXCLUSIVE - Hibs boss hails powerful striker's return to 'light' squad
International duty has provided breathing space - and a chance for hard graft
Hibs boss Nick Montgomery has welcomed the return to fitness of physical forward Christian Doidge – a potentially huge impact player in a squad still light on numbers.
With Adam Le Fondre out until at least the end of the year, Montgomery will continue to lean heavily on a refreshed Dylan Vente to lead the line as Hibs play eight games between now and the winter break.
But the head coach is thrilled to have Welsh target man Doidge, loaned out to Kilmarnock last season, back in his armoury.
“Christian had just a slight tweak in his groin, he came back and it didn’t quite feel right, so it was probably a couple of more weeks than we expected without him,” said Monty.
“This has been a good opportunity for him to have two full weeks of training going into this Christmas period.
“What happened last year is last year. But he started well for me – then got that kick in the eye, split his eye wide open in the very first game. That was a nasty injury, so he hasn’t had much luck.
“He came back, did a really good job, then found himself with this little groin injury. That happens. But he’s back fully fit.
“With Alfie (Le Fondre) out, we definitely needed Christian back fully fit and 100 per cent, which is why we didn’t risk him in the last game.
“Alfie is going well, but it will probably be sometime in late December, early January, that we get him back.
“But, as I say, Doidge is back in full training now. And Martin Boyle will come back from the internationals.
“So we’ll probably have a bit more strength in terms of players coming off the bench, which is probably where we’ve not had loads of cover.
“It’s no secret the squad has been pretty light on bodies. You only have to look around at the boys who put a lot of effort in before the break.
“Look at Dylan Vente, who didn’t have a pre-season, playing three games in a week. By the end of that last block of games, he was really tired.
“With Boyle missing a game, Doidge and Le Fondre out injured, you’re asking boys to step up.
“Having 16-year-old Josh Landers get a couple of appearances is a positive. But it’s been a big effort from a small-ish squad at the minute.
“We’ve been making the squad up with young players, which is fantastic, but there are certain moments when you don’t want to throw a young boy on.
“When you’re trying to see a game out, that’s when you need a bit of experience. So it’ll be really nice to get a couple of boys back after this break.”
While Socceroos Boyle and Lewis Miller, as well as Congolese defender Rocky Bushiri, have all been away on international duty, their Hibs team-mates have been working just as hard out at East Mains.
“We gave everyone a couple of days off to refresh but we’ve been in training since,” said Montgomery.
“We had Sunday off, but we trained Saturday and then were back in on Monday, so it’s been a busy schedule. It’s a great opportunity to get on the training ground and put the work in.
“The boys have put a lot of effort into the sessions. Rocky Bushiri arrived back today, Lewis Miller and Martin will probably arrive tomorrow at some point.
“So that gives us 24-48 hours, max, with the full squad together. It’s never easy when you have boys travelling.”