Nineteen first-team players have sat out a combined 221 games in the Europa Conference League, Scottish Premiership, League Cup, and Scottish Cup competitions due to knocks, injuries, or Covid-19.
The number of total games missed by an individual player range from one to 31. Figures are based on confirmed injuries and illnesses.
Disruption and disjointed selections
The immediate problems are laid bare when comparing availability to last season. Paul Hanlon and Paul McGinn were virtual ever-presents last season but have missed a combined 27 games. Add to that the eight games missed by Ryan Porteous through suspension and Hibs have been without three of their defenders, who often played as a back three last term, for nearly an entire league campaign.
In attack, Christian Doidge and Kevin Nisbet have missed a combined 22 games. The pair netted 31 goals between them last season. The sale of Martin Boyle – still the team’s top scorer for this season – has also contributed to Hibs’ woes in the final third.
The Easter Road side’s luck, or lack of, could well be summed up by the departures of central midfielders Alex Gogic and Melker Hallberg just days before Joe Newell suffered an injury that kept him sidelined for seven games. Obviously the club couldn’t predict Newell’s injury, and the club soldiered on with Josh Campbell, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Ewan Henderson, and Lewis Stevenson all filling in in midfield during his absence.
Kyle Magennis has already missed 31 games through injury and will reach at least 37 by the end of the campaign. The midfielder suffered a complex groin strain in the first half of the season before picking up a knee problem in January that later required surgery as he pushed for a return to action under new manager Shaun Maloney.
Defender Sean Mackie, who joined Raith Rovers on loan in February to see out his Easter Road contract which expires in the summer, missed 28 games in the first half of the season and Melker Hallberg, who signed for St Johnstone on a permanent basis in January following his release by Hibs, sat out 27 games after dislocating his kneecap in pre-season.
Dan Mackay, currently on loan at Kilmarnock until the summer, was sidelined for 18 games with an ankle injury after the winger featured in Hibs’ early matches in Europe and at the start of the Premiership season.
Scotland international striker Nisbet has only missed eight games at the time of writing but after undergoing surgery on an ACL injury, is expected to be sidelined until the end of the year.
Varying issues – and the results
Some players have missed games through illness, including Covid-19, while injuries have ranged from hamstring issues to Achilles problems, groin strains to concussion, thigh injuries to dislocated knee caps.
All teams suffer injuries, of course, but it’s hard to remember Hibs enduring such a rotten run of luck in terms of available players.
Players have been shoehorned into unfamiliar positions. Lewis Stevenson has operated at centre-back, left-back, left-wingback, and in central midfield. Chris Cadden – who missed ten games at the start of the season – is one of many players to have filled in as a centre-back.
Harry Clarke, who played as a centre-back and right-back for Ross County in the first half of the season has been utilised at left-wingback in his first two games.
It’s worth noting that Nisbet played a full season last term from August until May, went to the Euros with Scotland, and was then parachuted back into club action in late July. His loss of form could partly be attributed to a heavy workload with little rest, possibly his injury too.
Did the Covid-19 outbreak have an effect?
It’s very possible. The effects of so-called long Covid include fatigue, dizziness, breathing problems, joint pain, and difficulty sleeping among others – all which could have an impact on players’ fitness and ability to recover from injury.
Doidge has already spoken about how his experience floored him and left him bed-bound for seven days in pre-season while Josh Doig also suffered the virus in the summer.
Will the situation change before the end of the season?
There’s a good chance it will, in both directions. McGinn and Demi Mitchell appear the most likely to return to action. The pair are back in training, although McGinn is ahead in terms of progress. It’s not unthinkable that either or both could be involved in the final few league games which would be a positive as Hibs eye a strong finish to the campaign.
As things stand, the only players who definitely won’t kick a ball again this season are Magennis and Nisbet. But the damage has already been done, with Maloney forced to rely heavily on 19-year-old rookie Elias Melkersen as his centre-forward, a makeshift defence, and cope with a lack of goals from midfield.
Brighter days ahead?
It has been an eventful season for Hibs on and off the park. It isn’t just the volume of injuries but the fact that key players such as Hanlon, Nisbet, and Magennis have, or by the end of the season, will have been out for significant periods of time. The trio played 114 combined games last season which underlines their importance to the team, but Magennis was the only one to have had recent, significant injury problems.
Jack Ross may well feel that injuries played a part in his eventual departure. Similarly Maloney may point to his need to rely on younger players due to the number of sidelined first-teamers as a contributory factor in Hibs’ inconsistency.
There is no doubt that Hibs have been hampered by injury problems this term both in terms of those injured, and the positions affected.
Maloney will at least hope for a brighter end to the league campaign with more players available before resetting ahead of the new season.