IAN BLACK is playing through the pain barrier to help Hearts qualify for Europe as a hernia problem threatens to end his season prematurely.
The Evening News can reveal that Black was withdrawn 11 minutes from the end of Sunday’s Edinburgh derby because of discomfort caused by a hernia which he has been nursing for several weeks.
He is taking pain-killing injections before matches to enable him to play and hopes to continue managing the injury until the summer, by which time an operation will likely be required.
Black, who has been an outstanding performer for Hearts in recent weeks, is determined to handle the hernia pain in order to stay involved as his Tynecastle colleagues pursue European football and progress in the Scottish Cup.
“It’s sore and it’s causing a bit of a problem,” admitted Black. “Hopefully I can get through it until the end of the season with pain-killing injections to numb it and let me play. I’ll put my name forward every week until I can’t go any further.
“I don’t want to stop my season here because of it. Obviously, like any player, you want to keep on playing. It doesn’t affect me too much so it’s a simple problem, nothing major. I’ll be available every week and, as long as the gaffer is happy, I’m sure I’ll play.”
Hearts should have Black available for tomorrow night’s Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against St Mirren, with Marius Zaliukas also returning after suspension. Manager Paulo Sergio must decide whether to reinstate the Lithuanian in place of Darren Barr, who produced a solid display against Hibs.
“Darren has had to bide his time and he is what I would call a proper defender,” said Andy Webster, Barr’s partner in the 2-0 win. “If the ball needs to go then it goes. He’s very good in the air and aggressive when it comes in to feet. He did well and obviously he is a bit older now and will get chances to play in these games.
Sergio also extolled Barr’s credentials. “Barr is a hugely professional player and a guy who never complains and always does a job,” he said. “Sometimes these guys are more important than the ones who want to play every game and are never happy. I was very proud of my players for their game against Hibs, who made it difficult.”
Webster explained that the Hearts players are thriving on the fact they have now gone ten Edinburgh derbies without defeat. “The record speaks for itself,” he said. “Hibs find it very difficult coming here and you thrive on that. This is the type of game and occasion you want to be involved in.
“We played really well in the first half and defensively we were quite comfortable. They changed it up and had a couple of bits and pieces after half-time.
“The game was basically dead after Suso’s goal. We worked hard and we deserved the victory. In any derby match there is going to be a period when you come under pressure and I thought we dealt with it well.”