HIBERNIAN captain James McPake has been ruled out of tomorrow’s Scottish Cup final with a back injury – but will be invited to go up to lift the trophy should his team defeat Celtic.
McPake had insisted earlier this week that he would take an injection if necessary to play, but Hibs manager Pat Fenlon revealed yesterday that the centre-half had lost his race to recover fitness on time. “It’s a blow, as James has been a big player for us since I came to the club and we brought him in,” Fenlon said. “He’s a good leader on the pitch as well.
“It’s more of a blow for him, to be honest. When a player misses out on a cup final it’s difficult. In fairness to him he’s aware that he needs to be 100 per cent right going into the game and he doesn’t feel that.
“We’ve just had to make the decision to leave him out. It’s not the kind of injury where he could take an injection to get him through. James has to feel right to play the game.
“He doesn’t want to let people down, so we had to make that decision. That’s just the way it is sometimes. It’s just unfortunate that it’s a cup final.”
There is consolation for Fenlon in the fact that young defender Jordon Forster, who will come into the back four, has been on fine form since coming into the team this month. “Jordon has been fantastic since he came in. It’s a big game for him, although his debut at Tynecastle was a massive game as well and he performed really well. Sometimes people miss out and others come to the fore, so we’re hoping that Jordon enjoys the day and has a decent game for us. The young boys have been great for us as none of that stuff [history] sits on their shoulders.”
Right-back Tim Clancy, who has also missed out through injury in recent weeks, is the only other fitness worry for the manager. “Tim has trained for the last ten days now and has got a fair bit done, so that’s probably a choice we’ll have to make. Bar James we’ve got everybody ready to play, so I suppose it’s a good headache to have.”
Fenlon added that he would still like McPake, as club captain, to go up to receive the cup if Hibs do overcome Celtic and end their 111-year drought in the competition. “That would be great,” he said. “It would be fantastic if we’re in that position. It would be different class.”