Dylan McGeouch admits he’s desperate to make up for lost time after an ankle injury sidelined him for almost three months.
Having found himself out of Celtic manager Ronny Deila’s plans, the midfielder opted for a season-long loan deal with Hibs as he sought regular first team action. But just as he began to impress at Easter Road after established himself in Alan Stubbs’ starting line-up, McGeouch was forced to undergo surgery which resulted in him missing nine matches.
Now, though, he is back, after returning a week past Saturday against Capital rivals Hearts who were also, coincidentally, the last side he had faced before his operation.
He is eager to pick up from where he left off in October, having reeled off a string of eye-catching performances as Hibs, after a stuttering start to life in the Championship, began to put together a run of impressive results. McGeouch, who turns 22 tomorrow, said: “Before my operation I was getting a run of games and felt I was doing okay. It was great to be playing every weekend and I was enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately I had been forgotten about a wee bit at Celtic. I had been on the bench and come on as a substitute occasionally.
“So to come here, play regularly, perform well and help the team to win had made it a good move for both me and the club. From the first time I met the gaffer and we spoke about his plans, I felt it was the right move for me. I bought into what he wanted to do in terms of playing good football.
“I’d been enjoying a run of games, exactly what I’d come to Hibs hoping to get. I was enjoying my football and it was great to have people talking about my performances.
“But I’d had a wee niggle in my ankle, a wee muscle thing, for a while which I had played through even though it was hurting me sometimes both in training and in games.
“A specialist advised me to get it sorted now because long term it would cause me more of a problem. It was going to mean six to eight weeks out, but that’s what we decided to do.”
The former Scotland Under-21 star completed his rehabilitation with Celtic at their Lennoxtown training base rather than travel through from Glasgow to East Mains on a daily basis before rejoining Stubbs’ squad and making his comeback within the predicted timescale.
He said: “We were aiming for January and I’m delighted I’ve got back as planned, as it had been really frustrating to find myself on the sidelines just as the team was beginning to motor. It’s hard to watch. You want the boys to do well and you are cheering for them but you are just itching to be out on the pitch with them.
“I was happy to find myself going straight back into the team as I could have had no complaints if I’d been forced to wait for my chance as the boys had been turning in great performances and picking up good results.
“I’m feeling good now. I trained a few times in the build-up to the Hearts match and, fingers crossed, everything is fine with my ankle. Now I can hopefully put the injury behind me and get another run of games and get back to where I left off.”
Having returned as a second-half substitute in the New Year derby at Tynecastle, McGeouch got his first 90 minutes since October 26 as Hibs faced Falkirk in a match which, ultimately, was to end in bitter disappointment as they contrived to throw away a 3-1 half-time lead to draw 3-3, leaving everyone in the home dressingroom totally deflated.
McGeouch said: “It was great for me to get the full match. Hopefully I can build on that and build up my fitness in training and in matches.
“The most important thing is the team winning so we were all on a downer at not winning against Falkirk. It was definitely a win that got away from us. When we are 3-1 up at home at half-time you would back us to go on and see the game out and perhaps even get another goal or two.
“It was a strange kind of game. We’re two up and had a chance when Martin Boyle rounded the goalkeeper only to put the ball past the post.
“If that one goes in it would have been a different game, but it probably gave them the lift they needed. I don’t think we played that well in the second half. We were pretty poor defensively as a team from set pieces and that is something we have to address. We hadn’t been losing many goals recently so to concede three in one game was disappointing. Things seemed to fall for them in the box while we didn’t clear our lines well enough and, again, that’s something we have to learn from.”
The draw also saw Hibs lose further ground on second placed Rangers, whom they had been widely tipped to overhaul after their recent 4-0 hammering of the Ibrox side.
Instead, they are now eight points behind, with both Queen of the South and the Bairns continuing to breathe down their necks. McGeouch said: “We had Rangers firmly in our sights after beating them a couple of weeks ago. We were catching them but we’ve slipped that wee bit further behind them. Now we have to pick ourselves up and concentrate on getting the three points against Cowdenbeath this weekend.”