Head coach Neil Lennon has admitted that Hibs have suffered a “real blow” with the news that Liam Fontaine is out for three months with an ankle injury.
The 31-year-old defender sustained what was initially deemed a minor injury in a development league match against Aberdeen a week past Tuesday and subsequently missed the first-team’s 1-1 draw at St Johnstone last weekend.
Neil Lennon had been hopeful of welcoming Fontaine back for today’s home game against Motherwell, but scans this week have shown that the problem is more serious than anticipated and similar to the one that ended the former Bristol City player’s season prematurely in February. The centre-back is expected to be unavailable until December.
“We’ve had a real blow with Liam,” said Lennon. “He’s had a scan and he’s going to require surgery. It’s come well out of the blue because it looked innocuous but the ligament has come away from the bone. It’s quite similar to the injury he had last season. He needs surgery and he will be out for eight to 12 weeks.”
Although Fontaine has remained an unused substitute for most of the season so far, his absence will be more keenly felt since it coincides with a period when Darren McGregor is also sidelined until well into next month. Paul Hanlon, Efe Ambrose and 18-year-old Ryan Porteous are now the only fit centre-backs, but Lennon currently has no plans to bring a free agent in to provide cover.
“Darren had his surgery on Monday and he will be out four to six weeks,” said the manager. “I can’t afford any more injuries at centre-half. That was a real blow losing Liam. I won’t look at getting anyone in. It’s a position we’re well covered in. We are well stocked so I am not looking elsewhere unless something drastic happens.”
Lennon also confirmed there have been no developments with regard to the possibility of bringing former Celtic attacker Kris Commons back to Hibs. The 34-year-old, who has been working as a pundit since leaving Parkhead in the summer, had a fruitful month on loan at Easter Road last winter, and a return to the Capital has been mooted in the event that he can rediscover an adequate level of fitness in the coming months following a back operation in the summer.
“I don’t know where he is at the moment,” said Lennon. “You guys (in the media) probably see him more than me. He’s still recovering from surgery and I’ve not spoken to him. Until he feels up to training I’ve nothing to say on that.”