Hibs boss Neil Lennon has insisted he’d have no qualms about throwing defender Darrem McGregor straight back into action following three months out with a knee injury, saying: “If I had 11 like him, my job would be stress free.”
McGregor hasn’t played since tearing the meniscus in his left knee while playing against Dundee at Dens Park at the end of August, the 31-year-old requiring surgery to repair the damage.
However, as the Evening News revealed, McGregor has now returned to full-time training and, although he is in Lennon’s squad for today’s Premiership match against Hamilton, the fact Accies play on an artificial surface is likely to delay his comeback for a further week.
Nevertheless, Lennon admitted McGregor’s return was timely with the Easter Road outfit facing a gruelling schedule of seven matches next month including games against Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen in the space of just six days.
Given that former St Mirren and Rangers player McGregor has suffered anterior cruciate ligament injuries which put him out of action for almost two years in the past, Lennon has been anxious that he doesn’t rush his return.
But he revealed McGregor has already been knocking on his door such is his desire to start playing again. Lennon said: “Darren has had a horrendous time over the years with injuries but has never let it get him down. He just bounces back.
“He looks strong again. It’s good to see him out training. It might take him a bit of time to get up to full speed obviously. With December coming up and the volume of games we have, it’s really good to have him back. He has an aura about him, an influence. The players respect him as do the management team.
”He’s a really good type and he loves the club. If I had 11 Darren McGregors, my job would be stress free.”
Lennon has been keen to get McGregor some much-needed game time but given Hibs’ development squad’s match next week against Motherwell will also be played on an artificial surface, Lennon conceded there was little opportunity to do that in the near future. However, he was adamant that won’t hold him back, saying: “We’ll just use the training time for him. He doesn’t train fully in a week as you know because of the knee. So it’s just a question of trying to get him up to full speed through training and conditioining.
“But he works like a demon in the gym and on his rehab. So, if I have to throw him in at any time I will not have any worries about that. I just hope there won’t be a reaction too soon.”
Lennon also has Steven Whittaker back following a three-match absence with a pelvic injury but club skipper David Gray will be missing in the hope a week’s rest will cure the knee problem which has plagued him in recent weeks. Lennon said: “David’s had a scan so he needs a bit of rest, there’s a lot of inflammation in there. And, to be fair to him, he’s been strapping it up and playing through it which has not been fair on him. With Steven back fit, it’s probably a good time to give him a bit of a break.”
Lennon also has high hopes Danny Swanson will be back fit within the next couple of weeks, the playmaker having suffered a couple of setbacks as he recovers from a medial ligament injury.