Jamie Walker eyes Hearts return before new year

Jamie Walker has been battling a knee injury

Jamie Walker has been battling a knee injury

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Jamie Walker hopes to return to action by the end of December after extending his contract with Hearts until summer 2018.

The homegrown attacker’s original deal ran until 2017 but, after discussions with the club, he has now pledged himself to the Jambos for an additional year. The news comes at a time when the 22-year-old is battling to overcome a knee problem which has had a disruptive effect on his season. Walker has started only eight matches this term and has been sidelined since appearing as a substitute in the League Cup quarter-final defeat by Celtic six weeks ago.

The boyhood Hearts fan is humbled that the club value him so highly they made moves to tie him down on a new deal even though he has been injured, and is hopeful that he will be fit enough to return to action in the next couple of weeks, with the home showdown with Premiership leaders Celtic looming a fortnight on Sunday.

“It was an easy decision to make to stay,” said Walker. “I’ve not played much this season but it shows that the gaffer’s got faith in me by giving me a new contract. It makes sense to commit my future to the club and give something back. The gaffer’s shown faith in me as I’ve been injured for a lot of the season and he could’ve just left it and seen how my injury was.

“Hopefully I can repay him with good performances. I started back running yesterday so hopefully next week or the week after I’ll be back fit. I’m looking forward to getting back playing.”

Walker follows Arnaud Djoum and Igor Rossi in agreeing a new deal after the duo last week signed until summer 2017. Head coach Robbie Neilson told the Hearts website: “I’m pleased to get Jamie signed up. He’s a Hearts academy graduate, and we’ve got a few more guys too who we’d like to get signed up as we think that they deserve it.

“It works well for both parties. Jamie’s a big prospect, played a lot of games and there’s been interest in him over the years. To get him tied up gives us security but it also gives Jamie security as well, to go and progress and concentrate on his football.

“This season has been a bit stop-start for Jamie. Last season he played very well for us and won us a lot of games. He’s a big part of the team and was at the start of the season. He’s had a couple of little niggling injuries recently, which have hindered him, but we expect him to make a full recovery and add value to the team.”

Meanwhile, Neilson has assured Morgaro Gomis that he remains prominent in his plans. The midfielder told the Evening News last week how he was enduring a difficult time after losing his form and his place in the team since the death of his father in September. Gomis has started only two of Hearts’ last seven matches, but Neilson said: “The boys in the midfield just have to be patient because we’ve got Buaben, Gomis, Pallardo and Djoum pushing for two positions. Morgaro’s one of the key players in the squad though – he’ll get a lot of game time this season.”

Tickets for Hearts’ home match with Celtic on December 27 are now completely sold out, while briefs for the Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at home to Aberdeen, which kicks off at 5.30pm on Saturday, January 9, go on sale to season-ticket holders today.