HIBERNIAN manager Terry Butcher has revealed confidence-sapped Alex Harris may not be deemed ready to return to first-team action until next season.
The 19-year-old spent the first five months of the campaign sidelined with a broken ankle that required surgery to insert metal pins, but made his comeback as a late substitute against Aberdeen in January.
After another appearance as a replacement, the Scotland Under-19 cap – who made such a huge impact after earning his top-team debut last term – made five starts in a row before again coming off the bench in the recent 3-3 draw with Motherwell. However, the teenager has been dropped completely from Hibs’ matchday squad for the last two outings against Inverness Caley Thistle and Partick Thistle because of a failure to find his feet again in the Premiership. Butcher has admitted the move is designed to take Harris out of the firing line and ensure he rediscovers his faltering form in time for next season.
Butcher said: “We’ve got to build him back up, his confidence is not high. I think he’s found it difficult in the first team, there’s no doubt about that. So, we’ve probably got to take him back and just re-introduce him a lot more gently and make sure that we’ll see the benefit of that next season, rather than at the end of this one.
“It’s always hard. You come back into the first team straight away, with the adrenalin pumping, doing this and doing that. But you can soon realise you are not quite up to sharpness or the pace of the game. That takes a bit of time to adjust to.
“So, his time will come next (season), after a good pre-season with us. For me, you’ve got to earn the right of being in the first-team squad and obviously earn the right to be in the team, and that doesn’t come lightly. Yes, we are looking for wins, but players still need to work hard to get into the squad.”