From Borough Briggs to Brondby via a spell in intensive care, it’s certainly been a memorable journey for Hibs goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw who, not so long ago, had real concerns his career might have been over, writes David Hardie.
A freak training ground accident – a collision with former Raith Rovers team-mate Ross Callachan – ended up with Laidlaw suffering a torn kidney.
Such was the severity of the blow, he was in a high dependency hospital unit and the organ was “glued” back together by a specialist. Moreover, Laidlaw only got the green light to resume full training a few weeks before a trial spell with Hibs that earned him a one-year deal.
Just 15 days on from penning the contract, the 24-year-old was thrown in for his first match for the Edinburgh club in their second leg of their Europa League tie against Brondby as he replaced Finnish goalkeeper Otso Virtanen.
Incredibly, it was Laidlaw’s first competitive outing since shipping five goals as Elgin City went down at home to Annan Athletic 15 months previously, the 6ft 5in stopper vindicating head coach Neil Lennon’s bold decision to throw him in at the deep end with an assured performance, although he was left helpless as the Copenhagen side prevailed on penalties after Hibs had won the second leg 1-0.
However, Laidlaw didn’t have an inkling he’d be playing until the afternoon of the match, Lennon’s assistant Garry Parker – who took charge in the away dugout with the head coach banished to the stand as he served a one-match ban – telling him simply to relax and take it easy in the opening minutes.
Laidlaw said: “Competitively, my last game was while out on loan at Elgin, it was a big difference playing at Borough Briggs compared to Brondby.
“I didn’t play a single game last season, either through the injury – which happened in December – or sitting on the bench. There was the feeling that with the severity of the injury, I might never get back to play football.
“Thankfully I’m fit again. My main aim was just to get fit, be training every day and hopefully get a chance to do myself justice. I was delighted to sign for Hibs, but I wasn’t really expecting to play in Brondby.
“I was just delighted I did well for the team, but the boys in front of me were different class. I’m a calm guy and it didn’t faze me coming into the game.
“It was good getting an early touch and the save in the first half [from Christian Norgaard] gave me a bit more confidence. But, to be fair, I didn’t feel I had much to do. Obviously we’re really disappointed to go out on penalties as I thought we were the better team probably over the two legs.”
Laidlaw insisted, though, that one promising performance doesn’t mean too much. “I’m not even looking to holding on to the jersey,” he added. “I’m glad I did well but I’ll just focus on doing well in training.”