Hibs boss Neil Lennon has ordered his players to work harder at staying fit, revealing the lengthy injury list he’s had to contend with this season is the worst he’s ever known.
Only defenders Efe Ambrose and Steven Whittaker have remained available throughout the first half of the season as the Easter Road side slid from second to eight place in the Premiership table with key figures out for lengthy spells. Now Lennon, who will take his squad to Dubai on Saturday for a week’s warm-weather training before the action resumes after the winter break with a Scottish Cup tie against League Two Elgin City, is demanding that he has far more selection options open to him as he seeks to drive his side back into the top six and beyond.
He said: “I think I’ve only had Ambrose and Whittaker fit and prepared to play in every game since the start of the season. I am talking about two players, both over 30, out of 24. Every other player has had at least one injury. I’ve ever known anything like it.
“You are talking about 20-odd players, including my goalkeepers, injured in the first half of the season. I want better, I want the players in better condition for the second half of the season.
“I want them more robust and better equipped to take the physical demands of the season. While it’s a physical game here in Scotland, it’s not that difficult to do. I want more players ready and available. How do yo do that? Working. And then they’ve got to take personal responsibility for either rehab or fitness levels, staying on top of their game.”
Asked if he can toughen his players up Lennon replied: “There are procedures in place to do that – and the players have to adhere to those procedures. That covers everything they do, be it diet, hydration levels, rest.
“I was never the most athletically gifted, but I was fit for every game until I was 37. So, if I can do it, they can do it.
“There are players’ injury histories, I get that. But that should increase their rehab awareness even more, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“We’ve had no continuity or consistency of selection. I’ve maybe named the same team once or twice throughout the whole season.
“It’s nothing to do with the medical staff, as such. We’ve got an excellent medical team and excellent sports science team.
“The players have to work really, really hard at maintaining their levels. I get the fact that you can get injuries. Trauma injuries, there’s nothing you can do about them. But soft tissue injuries, you can handle that a lot better.”