Craig Levein gives fitness and selection update on Hearts quartet
Jamie Walker has an outside chance of making his second Hearts debut against Dundee United in Friday’s opening Betfred Cup tie. However, Aidy White and Peter Haring are unlikely to feature, while Steven MacLean is suspended.
Walker missed training at Riccarton earlier this week due to the tight thigh muscle which precluded him from Saturday’s friendly with Glenavon. Hearts hope the forward will be able to play part of the United match at Tynecastle Park.
Left-back White managed 45 minutes in Northern Ireland but is not expected to be risked in the season’s first fixture. He has not played competitively in 30 months due to horrendous injuries, although he should feature in later Betfred Cup group games.
Haring’s persistent groin injury is certain to rule him out of a midfield spot, while striker MacLean has a suspension carrying over from last season. He received a two-game ban for grabbing Celtic’s Eboue Kouassi between the legs in last season’s semi-final and serves the second part of that punishment on Friday.
Craig Levein, the Hearts manager, will not push Walker too much after re-signing the 26-year-old from Wigan Athletic two weeks ago. “He didn’t train earlier in the week so I can’t say for certain if he will play against Dundee United,” Levein told the Evening News.
“He is a bit behind because he’s been recovering from the operation he got down at Wigan and hasn’t done an awful lot of training. That’s something I have to consider. If he is injury-free, I’d certainly like to get him some game time on Friday.
“We should have Conor Washingston available along with Craig Halkett. Uche Ikpeazu is not 100 per cent but he will be available. We should have Walker for a period. Euan Henderson and Aidan Keena got some game time on Monday night against Inverness.
“The players are all at different stages in their fitness. Some have done all the training, others like Walker haven’t had the same amount of minutes in their legs.
“Washington hasn’t done an awful lot with us but he was involved in international matches well into last month. I’m more inclined to put players who are match-ready on to the field.”
Asked whether White would be involved, Levein replied: “It’s probably too early. He did well on Saturday against Glenavon and he might get some game time during the four Betfred Cup group games.
“We want to do well in that competition but I also want to start the season well. I need to plan the team for Friday and then for subsequent matches after that.”