HEARTS forward Soufian El Hassnaoui has returned to full training following a cruciate ligament injury and should be ready for first-team action next month.
The 25-year-old will play in two or three under-20 fixtures before being considered for the senior side, according to head coach Robbie Neilson.
El Hassnaoui tore his posterior cruciate ligament in a pre-season friendly against Preston in July. He was ruled out for four months but medical staff decided there was no need for surgery at the time. The player has spent the intervening time rehabilitating from the injury and is now back in full training.
Neilson hopes he will be available for first-team duty next month, but first wants to test him in some less-demanding under-20 matches. “He’s back in full training so we’re just waiting on him,” explained the head coach. “He’ll probably play in an under-20 game next week or the week after. He’s getting there. He’ll play two or three under-20 games and then he’ll be ready to step back into the first team.”
El Hassnaoui has yet to make an appearance for Hearts this season and has been troubled by injury problems since he arrived in Edinburgh in June 2014. An ankle problem kept him out for four months last season as Hearts won the Scottish Championship title. He had hoped to remain injury-free for the club’s Premiership return but injury struck again when he landed awkwardly on the knee at Deepdale.
Neilson is keen to involve the striker as soon as possible but won’t rush his return. Both coaching and medical staff at Riccarton are keen to ensure he is 100 per cent ready before donning a first-team jersey again.