Hibs’ Ross Laidlaw reveals how routine save ended his season

Ross Laidlaw is determined to resume training before the schedule set by his medical team
Ross Laidlaw is determined to resume training before the schedule set by his medical team
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It was the sort of save Hibs goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw had made countless times, a Friday training session ending with a bit of shooting practice for his team-mates.

And he thought nothing of the pain he felt in his left shoulder, the initial diagnosis being he’d suffered no more than a sprain which would, with a little rest, soon disappear.

But, as time wore on and he continued to find it a struggle to lift his arm above shoulder height – an obvious necessity for a goalkeeper – the 6ft 4in stopper was forced to undergo a scan which showed he had, in fact, suffered tears to both the front and back of the joint.

“It was a totally freak accident,” revealed the 25-year-old. “It was just a normal Friday session, we’d trained, worked on set-pieces and were finishing with a bit of shooting.

“Someone, I can’t remember who, had a shot and I dived to my left and landed on my shoulder as I’d done goodness knows how many times before and much more heavily. It felt fine but then I felt something, a bit of pain at the back of my shoulder.

“I was told I’d probably rolled it and sprained it and that it would work it’s way out. In fact, the following weekend I was talking of being back in training the next week.”

A scan indicated what medics describe as “slap tear”, damage to the labrum, but it wasn’t until Laidlaw underwent surgery the full extent of the injury became apparent.

He revealed: “My surgeon told me she wasn’t sure what she was going to find as the scan hadn’t shown quite enough. It turned out I’d suffered tears to both the front and back of my shoulder. I had the operation, which took about an hour and a half, to clean it all up and to put the cartilage, which was a bit frayed, back where it should be.

“She was happy with the final outcome which was the main thing but she told me it was the sort of injury more commonly associated with rugby players while the club doctor told me he hadn’t seen a shoulder injury like it in his time at Hibs.

“The physios, too, were totally surprised – they hadn’t come across anything like it either.

“The timing of it wasn’t ideal, three or four days before Christmas which was very frustrating but at least I can now concentrate on my rehabilitation.”

Laidlaw, of course, is no stranger to surgery having had two knee operations while also finding himself in intensive care after a training ground collision with then Raith Rovers team-mate Ross Callachan resulted in him lacerating a kidney which needed to be “glued” together.

He did, however, bounce back from that serious blow in style, celebrating the start of a one-year contract with Hibs, marking his debut by keeping a clean sheet against Danish side Brondby in Copenhagen in the Europa League.

While regarded by boss Neil Lennon as understudy to Israeli internationalist Ofir Marciano, Laidlaw did, however, do enough to earn himself a new two-year contract last summer but now he faces months in which his patience will be sorely tested.

He said: “I’d not been expecting this outcome. I’d had my injuries while at Raith but everything was going great here. I hadn’t missed a single training session since joining Hibs and then this happens.”

Forced to wear a sling for the first four weeks after his surgery, Laidlaw has been told it will be at least four months before he can consider returning to full training, a prognosis which has, in effect, brought his season to an end.

He said: “At the moment, I can’t do anything for myself. My fiancée Claire has had to do all the cooking, cleaning and so on and has even had to cut up my food for me. At least I’ve had her company since my op but she is a primary school teacher and will be going back to work next week so I’m going to be stuck in the house fending for myself for the next two-and-a-half weeks.”

Laidlaw knows returning to full fitness is going to be a long and testing process but he is determined to follow the rehabilitation programme which his surgeon and club physios will devise for him.

He said: “After the sling comes off, it will be a case of trying to get good strength and movement back into my shoulder. It will come back in time, but it’s going to be a difficult period and will take a few months.

“Obviously as a goalkeeper, I need to be able to get my arms up above my head so it’s a matter of working away and making sure I get a good range of movement back. I’m going to have to be patient and try not to force things although I think the temptation for any player facing a long time out is to believe you can always get back quicker than the experts are telling you.

“When I heard I needed surgery I was just desperate to get the operation done and now I am desperate to get back training. But the surgeon told me that it will be four months at least so that takes me to the end of April which really means my season is finished.

“I won’t, of course, be going with to Portugal this weekend with the rest of the boys but hopefully when they come back I’ll be in the position to start my rehabilitation.

“The boys have been great, very supportive, telling me to get my head down and, although it’s going to be a long recovery, to get through it and get back fit.”

Laidlaw revealed that team-mate Darren McGregor has led those messages of support, the defender having himself spent the best part of two years out of action having twice suffered anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

He said: “Daz has been first-class. He was one of the first to be in touch after my operation asking how it went and telling me if I need to chat to let him know as he’s been through a couple of long-term injuries and knows what is involved.

“But I’ve had a lot of support from chatting to the others and I’m hoping that I can get a few weeks in before the end of the season which should set me up for coming back for pre-season training ready to start trying to push Ofir for a place in the team.”

In the meantime, Lennon moved immediately the transfer window opened to bring Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain in until the end of the season, Laidlaw’s injury having left him with only the untested Kevin Dabrowski as back-up for Marciano.

And although he believes the 19-year-old Pole will in time prove to be a more than capable goalkeeper, Laidlaw believes that was the right course of action to take.

He said: “Kevin has yet to make his debut and, although I am sure he will do well, you don’t want to run the risk of having to throw a young goalkeeper in at somewhere like Celtic Park or Ibrox and see him make a mistake from which he might not recover. We’re challenging at the right end of the table and, although I don’t know Scott, I’ve played against him and he’s a very good and experienced goalkeeper.”