Danny Wilson, Sam Nicholson and Dale Carrick all return to the Hearts squad for tomorrow’s league match with Queen of the South.
Head coach Robbie Neilson today reported a welcome improvement in the club’s injury problems, with only defender Kevin McHattie and top goalscorer Osman Sow still missing.
Wilson is likely to return to the starting line-up after five weeks out with a persistent thigh problem. He played 45 minutes for Hearts Under-20s on Monday night and, as club captain, is considered an influential figure.
Nicholson is back after a thigh problem and Carrick has recovered from a torn hamstring. Both those players are expected to start as substitutes against Queens at Tynecastle as Hearts attempt to extend their unbeaten league run to 15 matches.
“The boys are all coming back so I’m pleased with that,” said Neilson. “McHattie and Sow are the only two missing. Danny played 45 minutes on Monday night and he’s trained all week. I’ll make a decision on whether he plays later today. Sam and Dale are doing full training so we’re looking good on the injury front.”
Neilson offered staunch backing to club owner Ann Budge in the wake of her midweek statement criticising both Hearts and Celtic fans for their behaviour during last week’s Scottish Cup tie at Tynecastle.
The head coach is adamant his club’s ground should not lose its unique atmosphere but said no-one should feel threatened or intimidated when inside it.
“I feel like a lot of people didn’t read the statement. I think Ann has put out a good, strongly-worded statement,” said Neilson. “We are trying to push the club in the right direction, on the pitch and off it. Ann is very intelligent in what she does and she wants this club to go in the right direction.
“Yes, it has to be an intense environment – but not hostile or aggresive. Twenty per cent of fans at the game were kids, they are the future of the club and the future of the game. We have to create an environment where families enjoy coming to the game, spend money at the game and then come back next week.
“The statement got straight to the point and got across the aspects we wanted to look at. It’s more about the environment for the fan. You hardly hear anything when you are out on the pitch. It becomes background noise.
“We are under no illusions. There are a small minority of fans who go to games and act irresponsibly, but the vast majority of fans are well behaved and it’s up to the individual clubs to eradicate any problems they have within the club.
“Football is moving on, life is moving on. It’s not just the case that you can go on a Saturday and slate people. You need to be a bit more reserved, we want this to be a community club and a place for families. To do that, the environment needs to be enjoyable.”
n HEARTS players Callum Paterson and Dale Carrick today welcomed a new four-year sponsorship deal for the SFA Youth Cup with the energy drink Little Big Shot.