Hearts winger David Templeton times return to perfection

David Templeton in action for Hearts
David Templeton in action for Hearts
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Winger’s recovery from his groin injury gives Jambos a boost for European assault and Cup Final

FOUR vital league games remaining, followed by the biggest cup final in Edinburgh’s history. Not a bad time to be returning from injury, as the Hearts winger David Templeton acknowledges.

The 23-year-old is fully recovered from the groin problem which robbed him of two months’ football and he now needs games to hone match sharpness. He couldn’t have planned it better, really.

Templeton is a contender for a starting place tomorrow when Hearts visit Dundee United needing SPL points in their pursuit of European qualification. Then come further league encounters with Motherwell, St Johnstone and Celtic before the mammoth Scottish Cup final with Hibs at Hampden on May 19.

The stakes are high over the next few weeks and Templeton isn’t intimidated. As might be expected of someone absent for a fair portion of time, he is relishing the prospect of being involved in high-octane matches once again.

“It is a good time to come back,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “There are a few big games coming up in the top six and then, of course, the final. It’s nice to be back now and I’ll try to get as many minutes as I can before then.

“Against St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup replay, that’s when I started feeling my groin most. I missed the St Mirren ties but I knew if we got through them I’d have the semi-final to get back for. That was my aim and I managed to get there, although I was a sub and didn’t get on in the game itself.

“Making my target on time was pleasing even though I missed games against Hibs and Rangers while I was out. These are big games that you don’t want to miss. Having to sit in the stand and watch them made me realise how much I wanted to be back. I wanted to be involved in those sort of games, especially with us winning them.

“I’m just glad I’m back in time for a few more big games between now and the end of the season. It would be good to be back no matter who we were due to play against, but knowing some of the games coming up gives me a massive boost. I want to get minutes under my belt in these games and try to get back as sharp as I was.”

Last weekend saw Templeton play the final 22 minutes of the defeat by Rangers after replacing Andy Driver. In that time, he managed to earn a penalty after jinking past Sone Aluko and being tripped by the Nigerian internationalist inside the box. He now feels ready for 90 minutes if required at Tannadice.

“I always feel ready to play 90 minutes,” he continued. “I’ve never been the fittest when it comes to running but in games I feel totally fine. I feel the same just now. I felt totally fine coming on against Rangers and if I had to play 90 minutes I’d be able to last. I always want to play and if the manager does pick me it will be great to get back in the team again. Hopefully I did enough last week.

“The tendon’s been feeling good. I’ve slipped a couple of times in training and overstretched it but it’s been fine. That’s how I know it’s back strong again. Hopefully I’m back for good this time.”

That last sentence alludes to the frustration Templeton endured earlier this season trying to manage his injury problem. “It was bothering me for months,” he admitted. “Some mornings I was really sore and then the pain would be away again a couple of days later. I’d go into games feeling like I was okay but half an hour in it was sore again. It wasn’t the nicest feeling so I’m glad it’s gone and I’m feeling good again.

“During the whole time I was out, the injury was heeling really quickly. Every day it was getting a little bit better and the physio told me I was ahead of schedule by a couple of weeks. I took an extra week just to make sure everything was okay. I was still ahead of schedule even taking that bit more time. I was always feeling good when I was doing all the running and I never felt sore the following morning or anything like that.”

If selected tomorrow, he may find himself in direct opposition to a former Hearts team-mate who has grown into a wily character with experience. Robbie Neilson, according to Templeton, is something of an expert in dealing with wingers.

“He’s experienced and he knows what he’s doing. He always helped me when he was at Hearts but he knows how to play against wingers. I used to watch him against (Aiden) McGeady, who was the best player in the league at the time. Robbie was always brilliant against him and never gave him a sniff.

“It is difficult against him but I like coming up against him. I relish it because I think it always makes it better knowing you’re coming up against someone experienced. It’s always a good challenge for me against Robbie and that’s what I like. I like to test myself against people who know what they’re doing. And Robbie likes a laugh as well, even during the game.

“I would say this game against United is as big a game as any we’ve got coming up. We believe we can get a result with the players we’ve got but United are going to make it tough with the form they’re in.

“With United being just above us, we want to take three points and try to get as close as we can to them. We need to focus on our own result but we will also be looking at St Johnstone hoping they can do us a favour.”