It seems Nick Montgomery asked the question more in hope than expectation.

The outcome was as expected, yet still frustrating for the Hibs manager, as he will be forced to reckon with the absence of three ever-present figures for his side's final Premiership match before the winter break. Martin Boyle and Lewis Miller will depart for the Asia Cup the day before his team-mates kick off 2024 at Easter Road, while Rocky Bushiri will also be on his way to the Africa Cup Nations.

Substitute goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott could be another, completing a set of departures that will put additional strain on a Hibs squad which is already looking distinctly threadbare. The absence of Josh Campbell for at least a month is another blow to Montgomery, albeit tempered by the fact that initial fears as the midfielder was stretchered off in the Edinburgh derby were much, much worse.

During the last international break, Australia manager Graham Arnold was willing to be flexible with Boyle, in particular, given the ongoing careful management of his fitness in a year when the winger has recovered from an ACL injury. But  Montgomery accepts that the Socceroos would have found themselves inundated with requests from clubs looking for similar treatment if they'd permitted Boyle and Miller to linger in Edinburgh for Tuesday's meeting with Motherwell.

READ MORE: David Marshall post-match Q&A after Hibs lose Edinburgh derby

“We did ask for all the selected players to be available for the Motherwell game and go the next day," said Montgomery. "But I understand if they let one or two then every club will want their players to do the same and it becomes an issue.  We officially asked and were told they need to be released on January 1.

"It’s frustrating for me but what we can’t do is dwell on it. You have to move on and get on with it.  They were understanding before and Martin has been involved in the national team for a while and missed out on the World Cup, which was hard for him. 

“They have every right to call him up and we can’t block it. So we have to accept it and move on."

If Australia, as is expected they could, make progress into the latter stages of the competition, Montgomery will be without a key duo for far longer than he'd like. And therein lies the conundrum for managers, who will obviously wish their players every success, while wishing they were back in the building for the recommencement of league action in late January.

In the meantime, Montgomery hopes there will be a steady stream of injured players returning to the fold, as well as some new faces. Neither Chris Cadden nor Harry McKirdy have kicked a ball in anger this season, Jake Doyle-Hayes has one league appearance to his name, while Adam Le Fondre has been absent since October. 

“You don’t want your better players missing, especially when you’re in the situation we are in where we’re light on bodies," said Montgomery. "Everybody can see that.  But you also want them to do well so yeah, we’ll be watching their games. 

“Potentially they could be missing for three to six games if I have done the maths correctly.  But we can’t control that. What we can do is try and get the boys back fit and training during the break, which is the challenge I have given the physios. 

“And we’re also looking at trying to bring in a few new faces within the means we have and that is not easy."

READ MORE: Montgomery Q&A on Hibs internationals and Campbell injury

New faces became an even greater priority when Campbell began writing in agony following an accidental collision with team-mate Dylan Levitt during Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Hearts, and Montgomery admits he feared the worst as the midfielder was carried away by paramedics. Campbell is still awaiting results of a conclusive scan, but initial x-rays suggest his absence may not be long term.

"Josh has been great for me," said the manager. "He’s been performing well and it is unfortunate.  He was performing well the other night and I think Dylan Levitt fell on him. I think the ref was in the way at the time as well. 

“So to be injured by one of your own players is disappointing, because he has become an integral part of the squad and the team in the last 5-6 weeks after a frustrating start for him. 

“So fingers crossed it’s not as bad as we first thought and we’re hoping coming into this break we can get him back on the pitch towards the end of January with the rest of the boys we mentioned before. 

"He still has to have a scan so we’re going off a quick x-ray after the game.  But the fact is he is going to be out for a period of time and that just adds to this list we have. 

“Josh is a tough lad, he never goes down unless it’s something serious and when you see the stretcher coming on you know it is potentially serious. 

“Fingers crossed it’s not as bad as first feared and I think a scan in the next couple of days when the swelling has gone down will give us a clearer indication of how long he’ll be out.”