Fraser Fyvie is hopeful of banishing seven months of injury problems by returning to action tomorrow against the side that first sparked his run of fitness woe.
The Hibs midfielder suffered anterior knee ligament damage following a challenge with Morton’s Jai Quitongo in a midweek Championship match at the start of February. Although he returned to action for six weeks at the end of last season and, in doing so, was able to make himself a Scottish Cup-winning hero in May, Fyvie had never truly shaken off the effects of the injury he suffered at Cappielow.
His hopes of a fresh start to the new season were dashed when the imjury flared up just before the first match, the Europa League qualifier at home to Brondby in July. After sitting out all six of his on-form team’s matches thus far, the 23-year-old hopes to finally kick his first competitive ball under Neil Lennon when Morton visit Easter Road tomorrow.
“It was still causing me a few problems towards the end of last season but I wanted to get back playing as quickly as possible,” Fyvie told the Evening News. “I don’t think any footballer’s ever 100 per cent fit so playing with wee niggles here and there doesn’t bother me too much. I did a couple of things around the time of the cup final just to make sure I could get over the line and finish the season. I was always going to be available for the final though!
“I worked on it [strengthening the knee] again when I first came back in pre-season but it flared up within two weeks. I sat down with the physios and they said if we get it sorted now, I’d be back in about five weeks, so we went for that. I worked with the physios, doing different exercises, and the specialist gave me some advice about how to deal with it. I took a couple of injections as well but there was no surgery. Thankfully now, I think it’s behind me. I don’t think injuries are ever totally gone but I feel good. The specialist and physios are happy with it. I’ve been training for over a week and I feel fitter with every session. I played the Under-20 game on Tuesday so hopefully I’ll get some minutes against Morton.”
Fyvie was an unused substitute away to St Mirren last weekend as Hibs made it three wins out of three in the Championship. With Andrew Shinnie having been recruited to bolster midfield, he knows there is stiff competition for a starting place at Hibs. “It’s been frustrating but the lads have done well to win three in a row,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to coming back into a winning team and trying to keep the run going. There’s always been a lot of good midfielders in my time at Hibs, and the gaffer just seems to be adding to that. It’s healthy to have competition because it keeps everyone on their toes and means no-one can take a wee rest after 70 minutes if they want to play the full game and keep their place. One bad game and you know you could be out the team.
“Shinnie’s a good quality player to come in. He obviously did well at Inverness and he’s been at Birmingham. I think he’s a great signing for us and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Fyvie’s match fitness was improved by coming through 90 minutes of the under-20 derby against Hearts on the indoor pitch at Oriam, Scotland’s new £33 million performance centre. The midfielder admitted it was a gruelling experience. “It was good to get some minutes under my belt on Tuesday but I’m not a fan of playing indoors,” he said. “It was really hot. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great facility but it was roasting. By the time half-time came, I think all the lads were feeling the heat. I’d definitely prefer to play my football outside on grass.”
Lennon has spoken previously about how keen he was to get Fyvie back to bring additional composure to his midfield. The former Aberdeen and Wigan Athletic player has enjoyed working under the new manager so far and is relishing the chance to start delivering for him. “The manager’s been great with me over the last few weeks,” he said. “I’m no good to him sitting in the stand or on the bench but it’s been good getting to work with him on the training field over the last few weeks and hear his ideas on what he wants from me on a Saturday. Every manager’s got their own style so there’s little changes here and there but ultimately he just wants to play football and win games, the same as any other manager. He’s been great – we’re all enjoying it.”
Ultimately, Lennon has been hired to restore Hibs to the Premiership after two failed attempts. Fyvie believes that, having experienced their fair share of setbacks in the previous two seasons, they are equipped to maintain their strong start to the campaign and finally achieve their objective. “We’re very clear about what we need to do this season – we need to get promoted,” he said. “I think we showed last season that we can maintain form but obviously we had a wee dip around March. We’ve got a good set of boys and a manager who expects high standards from us. I don’t think you can write off any team in this league, though. Morton came to us last season and beat us 3-0 so we know they’re a good side. There are a lot of good players and good footballing sides, which often goes unnoticed. We’ve had a fairly settled squad for the last year or two so we feel we know this league well now, and that should help us.”