Hearts hope Ashley Smith-Brown will return later this month

Ashley Smith-Brown has played only 28 minutes for Hearts
Ashley Smith-Brown has played only 28 minutes for Hearts
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Hearts defender Ashley Smith-Brown will return to action later this month after an injury-interrupted start to his Tynecastle career.

The on-loan Manchester City full-back hasn’t played for two months since his debut for the Edinburgh club but should be fully fit in the next week to ten days.

He was forced off just 28 minutes into his first competitive Hearts outing against Elgin City in the Betfred League Cup in July. Since then, groin and ankle complaints have prevented him making any impact.

The 21-year-old is frustrated and eager to prove himself to Hearts supporters. Manager Craig Levein is hoping he will be ready to play in next weekend’s Premiership match at Hamilton. If not, barring any setback, he should re-appear against Partick Thistle at Firhill on September 23. “Ash joined us late and missed a lot of pre-season,” Levein explained to the Evening News. “He was getting one little niggle after another so we made a conscious decision a couple of weeks ago just to make sure he’s clear of all these little problems and build him back up gradually. He’s good now and he’s training well. I think it will be another week at least before he’s ready to play.”

Levein returns to the dugout today when Hearts face Aberdeen at BT Murrayfield. It is his second time managing the club, and he is eager to build confidence levels after a difficult start to the season.

Head coach Ian Cathro was sacked and replaced by interim coach Jon Daly for four weeks. Levein was appointed manager last week but also continues in his director of football role. With a delay to the completion of Tynecastle’s main stand forcing a switch to Murrayfield, players are feeling slightly unsettled. A win against Aberdeen would provide a huge boost.

“Confidence comes from two things: training properly and to your maximum, and winning matches. We need to win. We need to get good results and good performances to give us confidence,” said Levein.

“Aberdeen are slightly different this year to last year. They’ve arguably got better, technically-gifted players. That brings a different challenge so we need to be very alert to the movement of those players.

“Technically, they are excellent so any lapses in concentration will be punished, I’m sure. I’ve got one eye on Aberdeen but also one eye on what could win us the match. That’s what I’m focused on.”