Hibs' Chris Cadden recalls the back break and heart break of his last trip to Ibrox
As a wingback, charging up and down the flanks all day can be back-breaking stuff. Quite literally. In Chris Cadden’s case it also led to heartbreak.
The 25 year-old Scot will head to Ibrox on Sunday for the first time since an ache in the wake of the team’s last trip there, in April, brought a premature halt to his season.
“Basically, I had a weak pain in my back around March-time. I said to the physio and he thought it was alright and I was probably playing through it for about a month. Then after the last Ibrox game – the 2-1 – I was really sore and achy and the physio said I needed a scan and to maybe prepare for being out for a few weeks or whatever.
“But the scan came back and it showed about a 4cm crack on the bottom of my back. No-one saw it coming or thought that’s what it was.
“Probably the most frustrating thing about it is you just need to sit and wait for it to heal. There is no way of progressing it. You just have to wait for the fracture to heal before you can do anything. That was it.”
A player who had hit the ground running following his mid-season transfer from Columbus Crew, he was forced to miss out on the climax to last season, as his colleagues challenged for cup and Europe, wrapping up their highest league finish in 16 years and coming tantalisingly close to silverware.
“It was such a frustrating period in my career with the big games and the big run at the end of the season as well to really kick on. I felt I was in a good place as well, I had strung a few games together and I was loving being here and playing football.
“I had to stop and missed a couple of games at Hampden, it was tough to watch but I was there supporting the boys and did anything I could to help the team.”
But absence makes the heart grow fonder and he has returned more enthused than ever, desperate to make up for lost time and help the club improve on last season.
That means not only getting to Hampden - they will play there’s fifth successive domestic cup final there on November 21 - but going on to lift a trophy, it also covers finishing as high as possible in the league, with European football a bare minimum.
In what appears to be an even more competitive league this term, so far they are on target, one of the clubs at the top of the rankings tussling for pole position. A win on Sunday could elevate them there.
Going to Ibrox to fight for the league lead is a new experience for Cadden, who has played there for Motherwell as well as Hibs, but rarely travelled with such belief.
“The mentality here and the squad we have, you see it everyday in training. No disrespect to Motherwell, I played in some great teams there and obviously got to two cup finals, but speaking for the squad I’m playing with now, the gaffer, the coaches and the mentality we’ve got, the culture we’ve got - it’s great.
“I’m enjoying it and even just coming back from injury you can see the quality in training and the intensity of everything is really up there. It’s been a pleasure to play in.”
And, the pleasure is magnified by the fact he is able to undertake every new challenge pain-free.
“I’ve never heard of someone breaking their back without actually falling on it. But it happened to me.
“[They said] I maybe ran too much and just the stress of that caused my back to fracture, which, I don’t know, it sounds mental saying it.”
But, he has been assured that everything has healed, and, after a pre-season set-back with a torn thigh muscle, he is building back to full match fitness. He made his comeback in last month’s capital derby and among his other appearances was the League Cup quarter-final win over Dundee United.
But running back out at Ibrox is expected to be the biggest test to date for Cadden and an Easter Road side as yet undefeated on domestic duty, who ran Rangers close in last term’s head-to-heads without getting a win.
“We’ve got the confidence and the belief in the squad we have here. It’s been great, but we’re not surprised by it. We know how good a team we are and the qualities we’ve got. We just need to kick on and keep on doing what we are doing.
“We just need to go there and try to get a result – play as well as we can and execute as well as we can. After that, we can deal with what comes.”
In both Ibrox meetings last term, Rangers won by a solitary goal, but both games could have gone either way and the April showing is now even more laudable, knowing that Cadden was a broken man that day.
“It wasn’t actually that bad. I came on and felt okay. The adrenaline gets you through. It was more after the game that I felt it sore. Even sitting down there was a wee ache at the bottom of my back.
“The week after, before Stranraer, I tried to train through iit but it was really difficult and sore. That’s when we went to get the scan.
“I actually thought I’d be ok for the next week but that was pretty much it for three months! I couldn’t believe it when the doc told me, but I’m past it now.”