HEARTS hope to have striker Stephen Elliott available for Saturday’s league encounter with Dunfermline after a three-match absence with a hip injury. The Irishman’s recovery is progressing well and he has a chance of featuring at East End Park this weekend.
Elliott limped off in last month’s Edinburgh derby after injuring his hip in an aerial collision with Hibs goalkeeper Graham Stack. He missed subsequent fixtures against St Mirren, St Johnstone and Aberdeen but Hearts management hope he will be fit for Dunfermline.
“Stephen looked a lot better,” said first-team coach Gary Locke, who revealed David Templeton is also close to returning from a groin problem. “Temps has been working towards regaining fitness for a few weeks and he’s getting there.”
Locke stressed that the Dunfermline game remains Hearts’ priority despite a Scottish Cup semi-final with Celtic looming next weekend. “Everyone is focused on Saturday’s game,” he continued. “While there can be a temptation to think about next week’s Scottish Cup semi-final with Celtic, the manager and the rest of the coaching staff won’t let that happen.
“Dunfermline are fighting for their lives and will be desperate to take all three points, so we’ll have to be at our best.”
With Jim Jefferies charged with saving Dunfermline from relegation, Locke admitted Saturday will be a weird occasion as he finds himself in opposition to his former manager. “It will be a bit strange, but it’s the same with Billy Brown at Hibs,” he told the Hearts website. “We know each other very well, but at the end of the day it’s about getting the result.”
Meanwhile, Marian Kello is attempting to negotiate an early release from his Hearts contract on the back of interest from Aston Villa and Everton in the Slovakian goalkeeper. As revealed in yesterday’s Evening News, Alex McLeish and David Moyes are both keen to sign Kello on a pre-contract. He is frozen out of the Tynecastle first team and spent yesterday afternoon at the stadium with legal representatives hoping to secure a termination of his deal, which is due to expire in June.