Richie Towell still has an important part to play at Hibs despite being frozen out in recent weeks, says Easter Road boss Pat Fenlon.
Towell has not played in more than a month, his last appearance coming in a ten-minute cameo during the Scottish Cup win at Cowdenbeath at the start of January, and Fenlon has told his fellow Dubliner to improve his fitness in order to be considered for team selection.
By nature a defensive midfielder, Towell has been employed at right-back for much of his spell at Easter Road. However, a recent influx of players who will contend for both of those positions appeared to have placed the Irishman’s future at the club under threat.
Although Michael Hart left the club, George Francomb and Matt Doherty have been signed on loan from Norwich and Wolves respectively in recent weeks to contest the right-back slot, while Lewis Stevenson and Isaiah Osbourne, as well as new arrivals Jorge Claros and Tom Soares, appear to be ahead of Towell in the race for a central midfield berth.
Fenlon, however, says that once the player’s fitness has improved Towell has a key role to play.
“He’s worked really hard,” the Hibs boss told the Evening News. “I had a good chat when I came in and told him he’s had to get his fitness levels up and just wait for his chance. But he’s definitely got a role to play between now and the end of the season.”
Having seen his opportunities limited at parent club Celtic – he has made just one appearance, as a substitute, for the Hoops – Towell first joined Hibs on loan last January.
Colin Calderwood negotiated a second temporary deal for the player at the beginning of this season, but the defender has lost his place under Fenlon since the latter was appointed Hibs boss in November.
While Towell bids to regain optimum sharpness, Gambian left-back Pa Kujabi and on-loan Stoke midfielder Tom Soares will unlock their potential for more impressive performances once their fitness reaches its peak, according to Fenlon.
“All the new signings have acquitted themselves well, and the full backs Doherty and Kujabi did particularly well. Pa and Tom Soares have much more to do fitness-wise, but they know that, and they have a big part to play for us in the coming weeks,” said Fenlon.
Honduran internationalist Claros, who last week signed a year-long loan deal at Hibs, is expected to make his debut in this Saturday’s SPL match against Aberdeen at Easter Road. Claros is understood to be returning to Scotland today after he is granted a work permit.
“We are hoping all that paperwork will be done before the weekend,” said Fenlon. “He could be a big player for us and we’re hoping he can come into contention soon.”
Midfielder Sean Welsh, who yesterday finalised a loan move to First Division outfit Partick Thistle, will welcome the opportunity to gain first-team experience at Firhill.
He said: “I asked the manager if I was going to get a chance and he said he wasn’t sure.
“Then, when more players came in, he said I probably wouldn’t play. There was no point in me just sitting doing nothing and not playing.
“My contract’s up in the summer, so I’ve got to get out there and show people what I can do so that, if it doesn’t go well for me at Hibs, then I’ve been playing games.”