Soufian El Hassnaoui will begin full training with Hearts next week but will not play in any of the opening two league matches against Rangers and Hibs.
The Moroccan striker is back running and is scheduled to join Robbie Neilson’s squad for training a week tomorrow after a summer groin operation.
Hearts had hoped to have El Hassnaoui fit for the Edinburgh derby on Sunday, August 17, after signing him on a three-year contract in June. However, that game will come too early, as does this weekend’s opening Championship encounter at Ibrox. Neilson explained today that the 24-year-old remains three to four weeks away from playing and will not be rushed into an early debut.
“Souf is back running and he’s being tested on that,” said the Tynecastle head coach. “He’ll be back in with the group for training a week on Tuesday and we’ll get him ready to start pushing. He won’t be ready for Ibrox and he won’t be ready for another couple of weeks after that either. He’ll need to be really up to match speed.
“What we don’t want to do is push him too early. He’s here for the long-term, not three weeks, so it’s important we take our time with him and get him to the right level. We don’t want him thrown in and then he breaks down again. The sports scientist will tell us when he’s ready to go in.
“He’s really pleased with the way things worked out over the summer for him. He’s got no pain at all from the injury, which is great. He had a period last season for the last six months where he was carrying a bit of an injury. It will be great to have him free of injury and get him playing.”
Hearts take their first-team squad to Cowdenbeath this evening for a final friendly before they head to Ibrox. The game kicks-off at 7.30pm and was originally intended as an under-20 fixture. It will now involve a mixture of senior and under-20 players.