Jack Ross is relishing the return of key striker Christian Doidge to the Hibernian squad for Sunday’s Premier Sports Cup semi-final against Rangers.
The Welshman – who signed a contract extension until 2024 earlier this week – has been sidelined for three and a half months with an Achilles injury, leaving Hibs short of attacking options.
Doidge has scored 34 goals since joining from Forest Green Rovers in summer 2019 and Ross declared it “an enormous boost” to have him back in the mix.
The manager said: “Christian will be in the squad for Sunday. I’m really pleased with the level he’s come back in at. He’s still not trained a huge amount but he played 45 minutes of a bounce game during the week and he’s trained really well, has felt good and had no problems with his Achilles.
“Having him involved in the squad is an enormous boost, not just for Sunday but for the period that lies ahead before the winter break. We’ve missed him because his goalscoring record has been really good in my time here and his overall performance level and contribution has been good.
“We did manage without him for a period and were winning games but to sustain that over the course of the season is difficult. You need different options, different choices within your starting line-up and choices you can make from the bench, so him coming back gives us that massively.
“He gives us a different dimension so I’m excited to have him back and I know he is as well. Hopefully that coinciding with his new contract means we’ll have a really motivated player between now and the end of the season.”
Influential midfielder Kyle Magennis is no closer to returning from an ongoing groin problem which has kept him sidelined since the end of September.
Ross said: “Kyle will be out for the foreseeable future, which is a blow for him and for us because we’ve not lost a game he’s played in this season. I would hope he’ll be back before the winter break but I can’t say for definite as things stand.”
Hibs head to Hampden this weekend after three and a half weeks without a game following a Covid outbreak which caused their last two league matches to be postponed. Ross hopes the break has allowed his team to recover their poise after a run of four consecutive defeats.
He said: “We’re very much looking forward to having a game again. It seems a long time ago since we played. We were keen to get back into action as quickly as possible following the Celtic defeat. It’s been an enforced break but one we’ve made the best use of.
“There’s a sense of excitement around the group as we approach what is a massive game for us. The break was about resetting, to a degree, looking properly at why we had lost those games and what we need to do moving forward into this run of ten games in just over 40 days.”
Hibs will be the first team to face Rangers since Giovanni van Bronckhorst replaced Steven Gerrard as manager.
Ross said: “It’s difficult for me to say with certainty what impact the managerial change will have on Rangers. They’re a team that have played in a specific way for a reasonable period.
“I think the fact there is no change in personnel to the playing squad means they will have a group well-versed in doing that. I think in terms of how they go about it, I wouldn’t expect dramatic changes from what they’ve done over the last two or three years.”