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Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom reveals Steven Whittaker is in ‘final phase’ of recovery

HIBS head coach Paul Heckingbottom insists he will not risk ending Steven Whittaker’s campaign prematurely by rushing the Scotland international back into action.

The former Rangers and Norwich defender has not featured for the capital club since making a brief cameo in their 3-1 Scottish Cup victory over Raith Rovers on February 9.

Heckingbottom has revealed that Whittaker is in the ‘final phase’ of his recovery from a persistent groin injury.

While coy about the exact date of his return to full training, he is adamant the 34-year-old could still have a big part to play in the run-in.

However, he has vowed to err on the side of caution – warning that any false move could wreck Whittaker’s season.

Heckingbottom said: “Steven is in the final stage of his rehab. It is about getting him over that last hurdle and ensuring he is 100 per cent confident and feels that he is ready to train.

“It is a challenge because we are working on his fitness while he is rehabilitating, but the longer you are away from the group, the longer it takes for you to be ready and available for 90 minutes of first-team action.

“We are now at the stage of the season when we need him to come back and stay fit – or you are ruling him out for the season.

“We need to make sure we do things right by him and make sure he only comes back when he is ready so we get the benefit of him between now and the end of the season.

“He is experienced and knows his body, and there is also the guidance and expertise of the medical team as well. We watch him progress and there are boxes he need to tick before he moves on to next stage. That’s how we are approaching it.”

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