HEARTS must protect midfielder Scott Robinson over the coming weeks whilst he recovers his best form after injury, manager Gary Locke explained today.
The 21-year-old underwent knee surgery in March and returned for pre-season training, however, Locke stressed he will need time to reach peak performance.
Robinson was substituted after an hour at McDiarmid Park on Sunday as Hearts lost their opening game of the Scottish Premiership 1-0 to St Johnstone. Locke intends to continue with the cautious approach to allow the player to improve his match sharpness gradually.
“Scott’s been out for a long time and we have to take care of him a wee bit,” Locke told the Evening News. “He got through all the pre-season games and he looks fit. He’ll be an important player for us this season. He’s had a big operation and, when a player has been out for six or seven months like he has, it’s a long time.
“We’re just trying to give him as many games as possible because, as you saw on Sunday, the pace is frantic and you really need to be on top of your game. No-one is going to do us any favours this season, we’ll need to take care of that ourselves.”
Kevin McHattie was an injury doubt before the St Johnstone game but the left-back played the full 90 minutes. “Kevin is okay. He missed a few days’ training but he’s fine,” added Locke. “We’ll need everyone fit and ready to go this season and we can’t afford many injuries.”
The manager was pleased with the impact made in Perth by his three substitutes – Billy King, Jason Holt and David Smith. One or more of that trio may now have played their way into his thoughts when it comes to naming a starting XI for
Sunday’s Edinburgh derby, which is now a home sell-out.
“I thought they had an impact on the game. They were nice and positive when they went on.
“We don’t have a big squad so when we put subs on, hopefully they can influence the match,” said Locke.
Hearts have been drawn away to Raith Rovers in the second round of the Scottish League Cup, although Locke insisted last month’s friendly win at Stark’s Park will have no bearing on the tie.
“We played there in pre-season and won 5-0 but I wouldn’t look too much into that result. It’ll be a tough match,” he said. “We’ll have two away games that week but at least we’ve not got far to go for this tie. It’s just over the bridge.”
Meanwhile, the Hearts managing director David Southern believes supporters would be the best owners for the administration-hit Edinburgh club. He is backing the Foundation of Hearts bid to gain control.
“We have come out of eight years of foreign ownership and it is now time to change direction and strategy,” said Southern. “The only people who can be trusted with football clubs are supporters and that is why I’m glad our supporters have an opportunity now to not just support the club but own it through the Foundation of Hearts.
“Hearts are a club of the people so why shouldn’t the supporters own the club? It is now over to the Foundation to see if they can save this club. Hearts are definitely worth saving. I feel proud and privileged to be part of the club and I will do whatever I can to keep it going.”