Hearts head coach worried by poor health of Faycal Rherras

Faycal Rherras was struck down by malaria on his last trip to Africa
Faycal Rherras was struck down by malaria on his last trip to Africa
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Hearts coach Robbie Neilson admits he is concerned about Faycal Rherras’ health as he heads off on international duty with Morocco.

Neilson said the full-back was “floored” last week after two club matches in four days but insisted on flying to Marrakesh to meet up with his national team.

Rherras returned from international duty worse for wear last month after contracting a bout of malaria in Equatorial Guinea. He spent three days on a drip in hospital before being allowed back to Scotland, and is still on medication.

The player is now off to join his countrymen again ahead of Saturday’s home World Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast. Neilson isn’t thrilled about the decision and has warned Rherras to ensure he isn’t overworked.

“I am concerned about it. I spoke to Faycal about it. He wants to go away with Morocco because they have the Africa Nations Cup coming up and he wants to try and stay in the squad. I respect that but I spoke to him about managing himself when he’s away,” the head coach told the Evening News.

“He needs to make sure he doesn’t train all the time or get maximum involvement in games. He’s going to speak to the Morocco coach and let him know the situation. He’s got some flying to do but they are only playing one game and it’s in Morocco, so it shouldn’t be too bad.”

Rherras was left on the substitutes’ bench on Saturday as Hearts drew 2-2 with St Johnstone. Liam Smith deputised at left-back because it was felt Rherras needed to rest.

“Faycal got his illness when he last went away on international duty and I’ve been speaking to him over the last couple of weeks. He’s just not feeling great and he’s still on medication for it,” explained Neilson.

“He played two games in a week last week and he was floored. He wasn’t feeling great. We rested him a bit during the week and decided to bring Liam in for Saturday. Hopefully, by the time this international break is over, Rherras will be back to his usual levels.”