Neil Lennon has expressed sympathy with Danny Swanson over the off-field turmoil he has had to contend with while trying to make an impact at Hibs.
The 30-year-old midfielder’s early months at Easter Road have coincided with the trial of those accused of killing his best friend Shaun Woodburn following a fight outside a pub last New Year. Swanson, who was required to give evidence in court, last week publicly voiced his dismay at the “pitiful” sentences handed down to those involved in his long-time friend’s death and has been at the forefront of efforts to get the public to back a petition calling for more severe punishment.
Lennon admits Swanson’s off-field predicament hasn’t been conducive to the boyhood Hibs fan producing his best form since making his dream move to Easter Road from St Johnstone in the summer.
“It’s a horrible situation for Danny to go through so we just try to be as supportive as we can,” the manager told the Evening News. “It’s difficult to play under those circumstances, plus he’s had the injury as well. It’s been a bit stop-start for him but I totally understand it. Hopefully, once this ordeal is behind him, we’ll see the best of him going forward.”
Swanson has featured in just nine of Hibs’ 20 competitive games this season, with illness and injury also taking a toll. The former Dundee United, Hearts and St Johnstone player has appeared in only one of Hibs’ last eight matches and has missed the last four with a knee problem. Lennon had initially hoped to have him back for the recent trip to Kilmarnock but he is now set to remain sidelined for Saturday’s meeting with Saints at Easter Road. “Danny’s had a minor setback so he’s back in rehab,” confirmed Lennon.
The manager, meanwhile, is hopeful of having Steven Whittaker, Dylan McGeouch and David Gray available on Saturday after minor recent injury issues. Darren McGregor won’t be involved, however, as he continues to work his way back following a two-and-a-half-month lay-off with a knee problem which required surgery. “Darren’s back on the training ground now but it’ll be slow progress because of his injury history,” said Lennon of a player who was twice stricken by anterior crucial ligament damage earlier in his career. “He’s not had any setbacks but with the injury history he’s had, we’ve got to be careful with him. He’s going to need games as well.”