Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet opens up on injury hell as he gives hopeful timeframe for return to action
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The Hibs forward suffered an anterior cruciate ligament [ACL] injury during the goalless draw with Celtic in February and is currently going through rehab at the Easter Road side’s training base in East Lothian.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the 25-year-old admitted the process has been eye-opening for him.
“It’s one of those injuries where you have to take it week by week,” he said.
"I’m four and a half months in now, so hopefully maybe another three and a bit to go, best case scenario, and I can get back on the pitch.
"I don’t really get injured much and until this, I hadn’t missed many games for Hibs – maybe one or two games here and there, but nothing too bad. Having this injury is a bit of an eye-opener for me; you appreciate football a lot more and I can’t wait to get back.”
Nisbet suffered the injury during the first half of the stalemate with Celtic when he came off worse in a challenge with Hoops defender Carl Starfelt, who was booked in the aftermath as the Hibs medical team tended to the stricken striker.
"It was an ACL injury with a meniscus tear as well,” he explained.
"The first three months were hard to take until I saw the surgeon and he gave me the all-clear, and since then I’ve been doing a lot more stuff in the gym and started going out on the park as well, which is good.
"It is a bit soul-destroying being in the gym by yourself but it’s something you need to do. I’ve put in the hard work and it’s starting to pay off now.”
Nisbet travelled with the squad to Portugal for the summer training camp although he was obviously unable to participate in any of the training sessions or friendly matches. He admitted that being restricted to a watching brief has been difficult – even if it has helped him psychologically; something he says he can use to his benefit.
"It’s really tough, really hard seeing the boys having a laugh at training and playing games and you’re stuck in the gym doing the same stuff over and over, day in and day out, but it builds character as well, in your head, and how to deal with situations, and I think that will stand me in good stead,” he said.
On top of that he has had positive conversations with new manager Lee Johnson – who admitted earlier this summer that he had tried to sign Nisbet on more than one occasion at his previous clubs – and is determined to force his way back into the starting XI once he regains full fitness.
Even so, the former Dunfermline Athletic forward is wary of expecting too much, too soon, and knows it will not be an easy task to dislodge those with starting berths.
"I’ve spoken to the gaffer, I’m still well in his plans and we’ve had conversations about how I can improve my game as well, but at the moment it’s about getting myself back as quickly as possible,” Nisbet explained.
"I’m in a really good place mentally and physically. I don’t really set targets for goals, I just want to get back into the team.
"I know I’m not going to walk straight back in, I need to impress the manager and go out and score goals when I get the opportunity.
"I think it will be a while before I play week in, week out but just getting back on the park will be great and hopefully I can impress the manager.”
Johnson has operated with a front two and a front three since taking the reins at Easter Road and with Nisbet having played in more than one system since moving to Edinburgh, he is ready for a role in any formation – and for the added competition in attack from Elias Melkersen, who notched a goal and an assist in the 5-0 victory over Clyde and impressed during pre-season, and summer signings Momodou Bojang and Élie Youan.
"I don’t mind what system we play, it’s down to the manager and what he thinks on the day.
"I played really well with Christian Doidge and I think I put in some good games up top on my own but this year we’ve got a really strong squad, a lot of competition as well, which I like.
"We probably didn’t have that last year so it maybe didn’t push me on as much but this year there’s a lot of competition and it’s up to me to get myself back in the team.”
Hibs could do with as much firepower as possible this season, having scored just 38 league goals last term – five of them coming from Nisbet – and he insisted the team has to perform better this year.
"It was very disappointing last season, but the morale in the camp at the moment is really good. We need to finish as high as possible; the last few years we’ve been in a lot of cup semi-finals and finals and we want to keep that up, but finishing eighth isn’t acceptable for a club of Hibs’ size.
"We need to finish in the top four and get back into Europe,” he added.
Once he is back playing regular club football then, Nisbet says, he will start thinking about a return to the international fold.
His last appearance for the national team came as a substitute in the 2-0 victory away to Moldova in November last year.
“I love playing with Scotland and going away with them. The manager [Steve Clarke] phoned me when I did my ACL to give me some encouragement and some kind words which was really good to hear, but for me it’s about getting back playing for Hibs then taking it from there.”