Fit-again Farid El Alagui is confident he can force his way into an on-form Hibs team and finally start proving himself at Easter Road.
The striker has started only four matches in the past 14 months after a serious Achilles injury sustained in August last year dashed his hopes of making a big early impression at his new club.
The 30-year-old returned to action for the last two months of last season but suffered another setback – this time not caused by injury – when he took longer than he had envisaged to recover from an operation to remove two metal screws which had been inserted into his Achilles.
After a frustrating period of rehabilitation, El Alagui finally made his first appearance of this season as a late substitute in last week’s League Cup quarter-final demolition of Dundee United.
Despite his run of misfortune since becoming the second signing of Alan Stubbs’ reign, the French-born Moroccan still believes he can make a success of his Hibs career.
“I feel good and I’m still confident that I can produce my best form at Hibs,” he told the Evening News. “It’s a long process to get back to 100 per cent so I’ve still got a bit to go in terms of match fitness and sharpness. I need to keep working on my legs as well to keep them strong and make sure there are no more setbacks but I’m pretty much pain-free. I would not say I’m 100 per cent properly fit because I need more games under my belt for that but I am ready to come on and be involved whenever the manager needs me. Overall, I’m happy with where I am.”
Fellow forwards Jason Cummings, James Keatings and Dominique Malonga have all been in good form during Hibs’ 13-game unbeaten run, but El Alagui believes he can force his way into the mix.
“We have different types of strikers at the club who all have their own qualities,” he said. “I have mine and I just need to show them whenever the gaffer calls on me. The boys are doing really well and I’m really happy to see them playing but I’m confident I can get into the team and play a part.”
El Alagui’s two-year deal at Hibs expires at the end of the season, but the striker is unfazed by uncertainty over his future and insists he is focused only on getting back to form at the earliest opportunity and trying to make a meaningful impact at Easter Road. “I know I’m out of contract at the end of the season but that is not what I think about,” he said. “I’m just focused on getting back out on the pitch and being injury-free. Then afterwards, when the time comes, we will sit and see what we are going to do. For the moment, I’m not focused on that.
“When I am on the pitch I will give 100 per cent all the time and try to help the team as much as I can. I have a good relationship with the fans. Even when I have not been playing they have never forgotten about me and keep sending me nice messages. When I come back I hope to reward them.
“It was good to get on for a few minutes against United and help the lads because it felt like a very long time since I had last been on the pitch.”