Neil Lennon’s comments last week on Hatem Abd Elhamed suggest that the right-back could return before January.
The Israeli has missed the last five-and-a-half weeks of action after picking up a knock. His last appearance came in our historic 2-1 win in Lazio, where he put in a typically solid performance.
That outing was one of 13 he’s managed with the Hoops this season (Transfermarkt). Elhamed has certainly been impressive, adding technique, composure, and strength to the right-back position. Ultimately, he’s provided exactly what we were missing in the same area last season.
His agent, Dudu Dahan, stated on Twitter when he picked up his injury that he would be out for six weeks. And as we close in on that timeframe, Lennon’s comments to the Celtic View on Friday suggested he may be back before December is out. (Volume 55, Issue 23, Page 6).
“We’re in good shape and have players coming back from injury now.
“Boli is there and Hatem is not far away so we’re close to getting a full complement of players back again, which is great because the load of games in December is very heavy.”
When could Elhamed return before January?
Lennon didn’t put an exact timeframe on it, but the hint was there. These comments came before the Hibs game of course, so Elhamed has hopefully progressed further since then.
The Boxing Day fixture at St Mirren would look like the most ideal place to launch him back in. Outside of that, matches against Aberdeen and Rangers after tomorrow’s game against Hearts feel too high-profile to take any risks in.
However, what about the elephant in the room? Does he get back in ahead of the outstanding Jeremie Frimpong? After all, Frimpong has been labeled as one of the best kids that Lennon has ever seen (BBC). Receiving that kind of praise and then getting booted out of the team would be unusual.
Then again, Elhamed has been absolutely sensational. His performances in the early part of the season was a major reason as to why we hit the ground running. He’s managed to keep the shackle on the opposition in games against Rangers, Lazio, and Rennes respectively.
Both Elhamed and Frimpong have their attributes. The former seems to be a top defender whilst the latter is so energetic and full of tricks going forward. Considering Frimpong has real end product too, it’s difficult to see him getting dropped anytime soon.
Regardless, it’s great to see that Elhamed is closing in on a return. He’ll add real quality to our options at right-back, and that’s massive heading into the second half of the season.