Hibs boss Lee Johnson reveals Aiden McGeady injury fears and Catch-22 fitness situation
The 36-year-old featured in the Premier Sports Cup group stage for the Easter Road side but during a pre-season encounter with Norwich City suffered a recurrence of the medial ligament issue that kept him out of action for more than half of his final season at Sunderland last season. His first league appearance came as a second-half substitute in the 3-2 defeat by Rangers, while he also got gametime against former club Celtic last midweek.
McGeady is set to be involved in the Edinburgh derby on Monday but Johnson remains uncertain about how much the wideman has in the tank, given he has just a combined 34 minutes off the bench in cinch Premiership fixtures.
Asked if McGeady was ready to start, Johnson branded it the ‘million-dollar question’, adding: “If you speak to Geads he will probably say, ‘yes, I am ready’. But I’m not 100 per cent sure because he is still getting nips which he did get although that is wearing off after five or six minutes, after a shot or cross. I looked at him in the Celtic game when he made that good tackle centrally on the pitch and I was thinking, ‘oh god, how’s he moving?’ He was moving a bit gingerly for the next two or three minutes.”
Johnson is only too aware that McGeady will want to be playing as much football as possible, given his lengthy period on the sidelines, but is wary of rushing him back to the detriment of both individual and team.
"Fitness-wise, it’s a Catch-22: you can only really get match-fit by playing matches but at the same time I have got to win football matches, I want to win football matches and sometimes I want him to come on when the game has opened up a little bit and it is not so much blood and guts.
"If Aiden was here then I am pretty sure he would say, ‘I’m a top player and I will make those decisions’. How long he can last is a factor, the people around him is another factor, and the shape of the team and the formation. That was a factor when he was fully fit and when he was at Sunderland because of what he is and what his isn’t. That is the same with any team blend. It is the sum of the parts."
McGeady got ten minutes at Ibrox in mid-December before a 24-minute spell against Ange Postecoglou’s side last week. The smart money would be on him being able to contribute for longer against Hearts but Johnson has stressed the need to put the team first.
“Certainly 100 per cent he is usable now and I’m actually quite pleased and proud of him in that sense. It was looking touch and go if he would make a comeback at his age, so he has worked extremely hard and deserves his place in the squad but at the same time we can’t just think about one player, we have to think of the team dynamic,” he added.