Hibs Exclusive: Crocked fan favourites close to comeback

Adam Le Fondre played in a bounce game this afternoon.Adam Le Fondre played in a bounce game this afternoon.
Adam Le Fondre played in a bounce game this afternoon.
Monty's injury list shrinking as striker and defender get game time at East Mains

Hibs are poised to welcome two fan favourites back to first team action, with former Player of the Year Chris Cadden and natural born finisher Adam Le Fondre taking giant strides on the road back from injury. Both featured in a bounce game against Airdrie at East Mains this afternoon, emerging unscathed as the home side ran out 5-2 winners.

Nick Montgomery is looking forward to having right back Cadden and striker Le Fondre available soon, with the defender potentially making the match-day squad for Saturday’s visit of St Mirren. But the Hibs boss, who admits he’s considering loan deals for some of the youngsters likely to be squeezed out by senior pros returning from injury and international duty over the coming weeks, stresses that he’ll be taking no risks.

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Chris Cadden played against Airdrie today.Chris Cadden played against Airdrie today.
Chris Cadden played against Airdrie today.

Cadden, voted Player of the Year by supporters at the end of season 2021-22, hasn’t played a minute of first team football since being stretchered off in the final game of the 2022-23 campaign. He needed surgery on his Achilles’ tendon and has been gradually building up strength, while working with a renowned specialist down south.

Le Fondre, meanwhile, had to wear a knee brace to immobilise the joint after a series of setbacks in his bid to shake off a hamstring problem. But the 37-year-old is itching to play after three months in the treatment room.

Montgomery said: “We’ve been really cautious with Cadds. We’ve built him up and ticked every box. Playing 45 minutes today is a massive step up in his recovery, ticking another box to be back available for selection. I’m not saying he’s match fit - but he’ll be available.

“Is this weekend too soon? We’ll see. We’ll see how he reacts to this game today, how he feels after the game. But he’s doing really well.

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“Cadds was player of the season not so long ago – and I could see why he’s one of the fans’ favourite players. He’s reliable and his attitude is first class. I’ve watched him every day in training, spoken to him a lot during his recovery. He’s a top professional, one of those top players you just want in your team.

“Alfie (Le Fondre), I said it when I came that he’s one of the most natural finishers of his generation, I genuinely believe that. He scores goals, that’s what Alfie does. But when I came into the club, we were struggling with an issue. He was never fit.

“It got to the stage where he needed to brace his knee up for three months and rest the injury. He just wasn’t right, wasn’t running properly. After we got a scan, the advice was to brace it and spend three months without playing.

“That was a big blow for Alfie, obviously a big blow for us at the time. But he’s ticked every box, come back to full training and hopefully, after playing today, that will be him back available for selection as well.”

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Montgomery hopes another long-term absentee, Jake Doyle-Hayes, will get “some minutes in a game” over the coming weeks, but stressed that the midfielder’s all-action style means he needs to be 100 per cent fit before returning. With Rocky Bushiri, Martin Boyle and Lewis Miller all potentially flying home from international duty as early as the weekend, depending on how the Democratic Republic of Congo and Australia fare in Friday’s knock-out games at AFCON and the Asian Cup respectively, Hibs could soon have a much bigger squad to see them through the closing stretch of the Scottish Premiership season.

“Yeah, as a manager, those are obviously the headaches you want,” said Monty. “Every coach wants competition for places, something we haven’t really had. I’ve had to ask a lot of the same players week in, week out.

“We only had 16 and 17-year-olds, which at least is a big positive, with five academy players making their league debuts this season. Some of them have played a lot of minutes, guys like Rory Whittaker and Kanayo Megwa.

“That will benefit them a lot in the long run. But it’s a big ask of them to come in and help us get results in a really tough, physical league, because they’re still developing. What you want is to be able to bring them off the bench for small periods, not have to start them and expose them when they’re physically, mentally and emotionally still developing.

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“We could send a few more out on loan because there are a couple of weeks after the window for us to do that. First things first, we need to get everyone back to the club, look after ourselves to start with. But, if there is a possibility for some of those young boys to go out on loan and get some game time, that’s an option as well. It’s an important part of their development.”

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