Hibs goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw has assured Neil Lennon that he’s fit and ready for the Easter Road club’s Europa League adventure after being sidelined for eight months.
Dropped following his display in the Betfred Cup semi-final defeat by Celtic, the 25-year-old then suffered a freak shoulder injury which required surgery and brought his season to a premature end.
So desperate was he to be ready for the start of the new season, Laidlaw even cut short his honeymoon, returning for pre-season training ahead of his team-mates.
And, with Lennon’s No.1 choice Ofir Marciano still at home in Israel recovering from an operation on a finger injury, Laidlaw, who kept a clean sheet on his Hibs debut against Danish outfit Brondby in Copenhagen two years ago, is desperate to face NSI Runavik of the Faroe Islands in the first qualifying round of this year’s Europa League.
The first leg takes place in Edinburgh on Thursday, July 12, leaving time short for Marciano to prove his fitness, with Laidlaw looking to Hibs’ three pre-season friendlies – the first of which takes place against Linlithgow Rose tomorrow – to persuade Lennon that he should have the gloves for the start of the new season. Laidlaw said: “Of course, it’s the manager’s decision, but I am fit and feeling good. I’ve come through every training session unscathed. I’ve been diving about, saving shots and the shoulder feels perfectly fine. It’s a strange twist in that my first Hibs game was in the second leg of that Europa League tie against Brondby and now I’m hoping to return to the first team for Runavik. All I can do is work as hard as I can and prove I am fit, which I think I have done in what’s been probably the toughest pre-season I’ve ever done.”
Laidlaw married Claire – who will spend her birthday tomorrow at Prestonfield – during the close season, but their honeymoon in Florida was cut short by a week to allow him to get a head start in pre-season training. He said: “I wanted to do everything I possibly could to give me the best chance. I was a bit nervous about telling her but she’s very understanding. She’s been with me throughout my career so she knows what football can be like and the main thing is we are still happily married!”