HIBS boss Pat Fenlon today insisted he would have no qualms about throwing any of his Easter Road kids into next weekend’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic as he revealed skipper James McPake remains a doubt ahead of the Hampden showdown with the SPL champions.
McPake has missed Hibs’ last two matches – the derby-day victory over Hearts and the win against Kilmarnock – with 19-year-old stopper Jordon Forster taking his place in the heart of the defence alongside Paul Hanlon. And the influential figure of McPake was set to sit out Hibs’ final league game, today’s visit from relegated Dundee, as he continues to nurse a back problem. McPake, however, has done some light work-outs while fellow defender Tim Clancy, who Fenlon had earalier all but ruled out of playing in the final, has begun training as he battles to overcome a groin injury.
Fenlon, though, admitted he’ll be taking a keen interest in the pair’s progress as the build-up to Hibs’ second successive Cup final begins, revealing he’ll give both of them every chance to face Celtic. While his injury worries eased a little as Ryan McGivern played the final 20 minutes of the 3-1 win over Kilmarnock having suffered a knee knock at Rugby Park ten days earlier, Fenlon would dearly love to have the experience of McPake and Clancy at the back.
While delighted with the performances of teenagers such as Forster, Alex Harris, Ross Caldwell and Danny Handling, Fenlon claimied he’d quite happily throw them into what would be the biggest game by far of their careers.
“Revealing that McPake and Clancy were “probably the ones”, after disclosing he had one or two injuries to contend with as he finalises his starting X1 and five-man bench for the final, the Hibs boss said: “Ryan should be okay, Tim trained yesterday and James and done a little bit.
“It’s probably too early to say at the moment. We ned to get the weekend out of the way, see how they are, get them into full training at the start of the week and see what response we get.
“I’ll give every player the chance to prove themselves fit and ready to play but if they are not then we won’t take a chance. There’s the bigger picture and we have to make sure everyoen who takes part next week is 100 per cent right.”
Asked if he would have any worries about pitching Forster in to face the likes of Gary Hooper, Anthony Stokes and Georgios Samaras, Fenlon said: “I’d have no qualms about throwing any of the youing lads in. We have thrwon them in to Tynecastle which is a difficult place to play and they performed really, really well so I do not have any qualms about any of the players I have in the squad at the moment.”
And Fenlon insisted he had to be ready to react to any unforeseen problems which may arise, either as a consequence of today’s match or in training sessions throughout the week.
He said: “I something happens in training during the week or someone gets injured we have to make sure the next one in line is ready to come. Whether you think you are going to start or not you have to make sure you keep that focus to next weekend.”
Meanwhile, Fenlon was adamanat little had changed with the news Wolves have invoked the option they held on top scorer Leigh Griffiths’ contract which will see him return to Molineux for next season although both the player and manager have expressed the desire to see him stay at Easter Road.
Already faced with Eoin Doyle’s decision to join Chesterfield, FEnlon said: “We are looking to strengthen our squad next season in a few positions. With Doyler going and possibly Leigh we have been looking in that area for a while and we will continue to do that. WE have young strikers under contract in Ross and Danny but we need strikers no matter what happens.”