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Shaun Maloney expects Kevin Nisbet to come back stronger following knee surgery

Kevin Nisbet file photo
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Hibernian striker Kevin Nisbet faces a long road back to fitness after being ruled out for seven to nine months following a knee injury.

Easter Road boss Shaun Maloney revealed the Scotland forward went under the knife on Thursday to repair the injury sustained against Celtic two weeks ago, when he was initially thought to be sidelined for the rest of the season.

Ahead of the Scottish Cup quarter-final against Motherwell at Fir Park on Sunday, Maloney confirmed the length of Nisbet’s absence but believes the possibility of a place in Steve Clarke’s squad should Scotland reach the Qatar World Cup finals will act as motivation for recovery.

The Hibs boss said: “Kevin got surgery yesterday in London. It went very well.

“Unfortunately it was an ACL injury so Kevin will be out seven to nine months. But he is still very motivated.

“If, and I think we are all hoping Scotland qualify for the World Cup, then he can still make that squad.

“Speaking to him, he is very motivated to come back a better player and there is no reason, and I have said this to him, that he can’t think that he comes back and be the best striker in the league.

“There is a lot of work to do. It is a lonely journey but we will be there every step of the way for him.

“He was very disappointed in the last couple of weeks, but I noticed that when I went to see him in London there was a slight change of disappointment to now getting motivated.

“It is very tedious the first few months with his injury, but all the work he has to do will benefit him in the long run and he has to be very motivated to come back as the best striker in the league and achieve something with the national team, and there is absolutely no reason he can’t do that.”

The Leith side were without 10 first-team players, including Nisbet, for Saturday’s goalless draw with St Johnstone in the cinch Premiership but Maloney revealed the outlook was a “little bit better” ahead of the trip to Lanarkshire.

“Chris Mueller has come back and we have to be a bit careful with him but he his back training,” Maloney said. “Hopefully he will be able to give us some minutes at the weekend.

“Joe Newell and Paul Hanlon have managed to just come back training but it is a bit more modified so I don’t think they will be ready for this weekend but I am hopeful that that they can give us something against Aberdeen.

“You notice the difference at training when you have the seniors back so the more we get back the merrier.”

Hibs have drawn their last three games 0-0 and Maloney is looking for his side to get back on the goal trail at a place where again they drew a blank in a cinch Premiership draw in January.

He said: “Motherwell is a very difficult place to go. We played very well in periods the last time we went there but you have heard me speak quite a lot about being very good in parts but it is that final third….

“When we do create chances we have to take them and we have to create more than we obviously have done in recent games.”

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