Hibs: Harry Clarke eager for Edinburgh derby bow after memorable Easter Road debut after injury hell
There are winces and grimaces as Harry Clarke describes the injury he picked up less than a week after signing an 18-month loan deal with Hibs.
"I split the tendon in my hamstring,” he explains. “It wasn't too painful to be fair but it kept me out for a while."
It isn’t the first injury he has suffered in his career to date but the 21-year-old is just glad to be over the problem that delayed his debut by three months.
His manager Shaun Maloney had been disappointed not to have Clarke’s services earlier and his performance against Dundee United on Saturday, in which he scored a debut goal any striker would be proud of, showed exactly why.
"I think a win would have been the most important thing, but it was nice to get a goal and finally play here,” Clarke continued.
"It was good to be back and we have a big few games coming up so hopefully, I can hit the ground running."
After an impressive first half of the season at Ross County, it must have been difficult to accept a lengthy spell on the sidelines so soon after making the move to the Capital?
“It was tough, yeah, but that’s football. These things happen and you just have to get on with it.
"I’d been here six days, I think. We trained for five days and then had a friendly against Queen's Park and that’s when I did my hamstring, so I hadn't been around long.
"It was hard for me to sit at home and watch – obviously I want to be out on the pitch – but the boys got some important points, although I thought we should have got all three points against United too."
At a time when Hibs don’t have their injury problems to seek, although the situation is improving, Clarke coming through 90 minutes unscathed will have come as a relief to both Maloney and the medical staff at HTC.
"I was a bit leggy at the end, but I felt good and my hammy was fine. Hopefully in the next week or two I will be back fully fit,” Clarke added.
He did the bulk of his rehab at parent club Arsenal, returning to Edinburgh last weekend for a few days training before making his second Scottish Premiership debut following his spell in Dingwall.
"The plan was to get it all done down there and come back here fully fit,” he explained. "I was supposed to be back for the Aberdeen game but there was a bit of a delay. I’m back now though.”
Maloney made a special trip to London to check in on his first January signing; a gesture Clarke says was important.
"It says a lot about the gaffer that he came down to see me. He's such a nice guy and it says a lot that he was willing to come down all the way to London just to see me in rehab.
"He text me a lot and I stayed in touch with a few of the boys as well."
Admitting that he had been a ‘bit sulky’ in the first few days after suffering the injury, Clarke revealed that a catalogue of previous injuries made it a bit easier to deal with.
"I’ve had a few injuries – some weird ones. I’ve broken my arm – twice, I’ve torn the bottom of my foot,” he recites. “I don’t usually do normal injuries like a pulled hammy – it was a tendon injury this time.
"The first few days were tough but there's not a lot you can do is there? You just have to crack on with it.
"I've had that mentality since I was young. My mum and dad drilled it into me."
That mentality could come in useful this weekend when Hibs make the short hop across town to face rivals Hearts needing a win, not only to keep alive their slim hopes of finishing fourth, but also to potentially just finish in the top half ahead of the split.
"There's a bit of added pressure for the derby,” Clarke agrees. “Obviously, we have two in a row and it means a lot to the fans and the club. To play in my first derby with so much importance to the game should be good."
His goal came from a move we’ve seen before from Hibs under Maloney; one wingback crossing for the other. Supporters would be more than happy for Clarke and Chris Cadden to link up again at Tynecastle in a crucial game for the visitors.
"Cadds has a good delivery on him and it worked for the goal. The manager wants me to get in at the back post and use my pace, which I didn't really do a lot against United, but he said I can be an attacking threat, which is nice,” Clarke explained.
The versatile player began his career as a striker before being moved back to central defence, and Maloney wants to harness Clarke’s ability in the final third with Hibs having struggled for goals in 2022.
He played left-wingback on Saturday, a role not too different from one occupied by a certain Scottish team-mate of his at the Emirates.
"I had a brief conversation with Kieran Tierney, but nothing too in-depth,” Clarke revealed.
"When I am on the pitch I just try to do my best. He's been doing really well though."
Clarke is on an 18-month loan deal at Hibs although the Gunners have two recall clauses – one this summer and another in the winter of 2022/23.
A first pick for club and country, Tierney would be hard to dislodge, but Clarke wants his performances for Hibs to give him a fighting chance, so both clubs stand to benefit from the loan arrangement.
"Is it my plan to eventually go down and challenge him? We'll see what happens,” he smiles.