Hibs boss Pat Fenlon admits he’s looking forward to the day when he has his full squad available after enduringa rash of injuries since the beginning of the season.
The arrival of Kilmarnock striker Paul Heffernan and French youngster Abdellah Zoubir on transfer deadline day brought Fenlon’s summer signing spree into double figures but he has yet to enjoy having his entire new-look squad at his disposal.
The Easter Road outfit began the new Scottish Premiership campaign with James McPake and fellow defenders Ryan McGivern and Tim Clancy on the sidelines, along with midfielder Paul Cairney, while teenage winger Alex Harris suffered a broken bone in his ankle on the opening day of the season, ruling him out long term.
But while McPake and Clancy have hit the comeback trail in the past couple of weeks, Fenlon believes tomorrow’s trip to face St Johnstone comes too soon for either to feature. And he revealed he now has McGivern out again with a knee problem and Danny Handling nursing an ankle injury, meaning he still has six first-team regulars out of action.
Nevertheless, Fenlon insisted that when everyone is fit he has a “good, strong” squad, one which club captain McPake has described as being the best Hibs have had for a while. Fenlon concurs, but added: “It’s like everything, it can look good on paper but you have to take it on to the park and make sure you are contributing.
“If we can get everyone fit it will give me a headache but it’s good healthy competition. We have a good balance in the squad as well in relation to younger ones, middle-aged ones and some real experienced ones. I am pleased with the make-up.” Fenlon admitted the international break may have come at the wrong time for Hibs, with the hiatus in domestic competition coming just as his side had strung together three games unbeaten after taking flak for a poor start to the season in which the Europa League crushing by Malmo appeared to have sapped confidence.
He said: “We have ten new players and it does take time for some to gel but that’s the same for a lot of clubs. There seems to have been a bit of a turnover of players, but we are on a half-decent run and we have to make sure we keep that going. Winning games breeds confidence and helps people settle in that bit quicker.”
Fenlon revealed Hibs fans heading to McDiarmid Park could get their first sight of 21-year-old Zoubir, the on-loan Istres winger who has already seemingly caught the attention with two goals in a recent closed-doors match.
The Hibs boss said: “It’s amazing how football works, the fans haven’t seen him yet, but everyone knows about him. However, I am sure that when they do see him they will be excited. He’s different to what we have, he has real good balance, two good feet, his ball control is very good, as is his awareness. He has great positional sense and wants to get at people and take them on.”