SELFLESS Pablo Hernandez has hailed the rapid emergence of Leeds United winger Pawel Cibicki, even if it keeps the Spaniard out of the side.
Summer recruit Cibicki featured in just two EFL Cup games for Leeds during his first three months but injuries to Hernandez, Stuart Dallas and Caleb Ekuban handed the 23-year-old an opportunity in this month’s Championship clash at QPR.
Cibicki was brought on as a 38th-minute substitute for the injured Ekuban and produced a fine display on the right wing as Kemar Roofe shifted to the lone striker role.
Hernandez had then recovered from his hamstring injury in time for last weekend’s Championship clash at home to Norwich City but 23-year-old Cibicki kept his place at Hernandez’s expense and set up the only goal of the game for Pontus Jansson.
But speaking ahead of this Saturday’s Championship clash with Hull City at Elland Road, Hernandez has applauded the emergence of Swedish summer recruit Cibicki, insisting a strong squad will be crucial to United’s success this season as a whole.
“It’s a good thing,” said Hernandez about the emergence of Cibicki.
“I’m happy for him. It’s important now that the squad has 22 players and we need all of the players.
“When you have a lot of games you need more than just 11.
“Pawel hasn’t played for a long time but in the last two games he’s been really good and this is very positive for the club and the team. Most important is the team. I’m happy for him, I’m happy with the results.”
Whites head coach Thomas Christiansen will now have to decide who starts for Leeds in their final game before Christmas at home to 19th-placed Hull at Elland Road tomorrow.
Christiansen described Hernandez’s condition as “perfect” last week and Hernandez returned to action for the first time since injuring his hamstring against Aston Villa last month when coming on as a 78th-minute substitute for Roofe against Norwich.
“I feel good,” said Hernandez.
“I came back in the last game and my fitness is very good.
“I did hard training in the last two days of last week, I played 15, 20 minutes on Saturday and I’ve trained good again so I’m ready for the next games. It’s no problem.
“It was frustrating but I can’t control this. Sometimes football is like this. When you have a good feeling on the pitch, you’re playing good, injury comes and there’s nothing you can do.
“It can happen to all players but you focus on the recovery and this isn’t an important injury. I felt something in the game so I went out early. That made sure it wasn’t worse. I was only out for 15 days.”
Leeds are approaching the clash with Hull sat seventh and just one point below the play-offs after a run of four victories and two draws from their last six games.
With fifth-placed Aston Villa hosting sixth-placed Sheffield United this weekend and Leeds one point behind both, a victory against the Tigers would ensure United are in the play-offs on Christmas Day.
“There’s a good feeling,” added Hernandez.
“After the good start of the season, we had a negative period and we lost too many games. We went down in the table but the team recovered the confidence and the spirit and the team is stronger now. We have important games to come and I believe in the team.”