BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HIBS star Paul Hanlon has lifted the lid on his injury hell last term, revealing that the operation which was supposed to salvage his season actually ended it.
The 27-year-old toiled with a persistent pelvis complaint and was unanimously advised to go under the knife to rectify the issue.
After the operation in February, he made one aborted attempt to return to full fitness – making two appearances in March – but otherwise missed the final five months of the campaign after finding his condition had deteriorated.
With Hanlon forced to rest and gradually undo the damage, he sat out a Scottish Cup semi-final and Hibs’ long awaited Championship title triumph.
He said: “The only word for it was ‘frustration’.
“I got an operation in February and things only got worse after that. I kind of wish [the operation] never happened. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I felt much worse after the operation than I did before it.
“It was a ligament issue. Before I had the operation, my only problem was kicking a ball. I would get shooting pain through my pelvis when I hit a ball hard. Twisting, turning, movement and all that was fine. After the operation – which everyone said was needed, and I trust them – it was worse.
“But there is always that chance. Not every operation will work for you and it didn’t work out for me.
“I probably tried to come back too early a couple of times, due to an eagerness to play rather than actually being 100 per cent fit. I’ll learn from that and hopefully keep myself fit for the whole of this season. There have been complications and setbacks and it has been tough.”
Hanlon soaked up the celebrations along with the rest of his Hibs teammates when they lifted the Championship trophy on an unforgettable afternoon at Easter Road in May.
After three years in the second tier, it meant as much to him as anyone. Yet, it was a bittersweet day after a season of fitness woes – and he can’t wait to hit the ground running in the Premiership.
He continued: “The day we got the trophy was great, and it was brilliant to be involved in the celebrations and see the amount of fans who were here.
“However, you ask any footballer and they will tell you that if you didn’t actually play on the day, or feel like you could have contributed more, then it can make you fell a bit subdued.”
Hanlon returned to Hibs’ East Mains training base a week early in order to work with the club’s medical staff, with the rest of the squad not due back until next Thursday.
He hopes that head-start will ensure he is ready for a full pre-season, as he steels himself for a fierce battle for a jersey following the signing of Efe Ambrose and Darren McGregor’s fine form last year.
Hanlon said: “To get signings like Efe through the door is great. He is an international player, has done it at the very highest level and that is exactly what you want.
“He has made a big decision to come here, he obviously enjoyed his time here last year, and I’m delighted he is back. We’ve also been linked with a few quality players who are exciting for the fans.”
“We all want Hibs to do well and the more quality players we can get in, the better.”
Despite Neil Lennon’s lofty target of second spot, Hanlon insists a top-six finish is the aspiration within the dressing room.
He added: “We have been in the Championship for three seasons and there has been a lot of change in the top flight. We just need to aim for top six and anything above that is a bonus.
“It is great to see the gaffer has that belief in us, and if we were to get second place I think that would amaze everyone after three years in the Championship!”