Jamie Brandon is braced for the probability that he won’t enjoy much action for Hearts this calendar year.
The 20-year-old right-back hasn’t played for the first team since the final game of 2017 away to Aberdeen and has been sidelined since sustaining a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and a torn meniscus tendon during a development game against the Dons in early February. Brandon anticipates at least another four months out of action as the process continues of allowing a hamstring tendon that has been grafted onto his knee ligament to set.
“I suppose 2018 will be a write-off for me but I just have to put what’s happened behind me and get back,” he said. “I’ve dealt with it pretty well because I knew there was nothing I could do. I just twisted the wrong way and it went so it’s just about doing my rehab and getting back as quick as I can.”
The removing of a tendon from a hamstring to replace the lost cruciate might sound drastic but it is a standard procedure for this type of injury. “They can use an artificial ligament but they thought the tendon graft was the best option for me,” said Brandon. “I was happy to go with what the club advised – they are used to dealing with these situations and will have looked to see what’s best for me. It’s just a case now of doing strength work to build up my quad and my leg so that I can start doing running. Once it’s back up to the same level as my right leg, I can start to do it. The four-month timescale is to allow the graft to set properly so that it’s strong enough to act like a ligament.”
Brandon started a dozen games in the first half of last season, most notably when he performed with distinction in the 4-0 thumping of Celtic that ended the champions’ record domestic unbeaten run the week before Christmas.
Craig Levein’s recruitment during the winter transfer window then pushed the former Rangers youngster out of the starting XI before his injury struck. The highly-regarded full-back has been unfazed by the sight of ten recruits arriving already this summer to further intensify competition for places. Brandon doesn’t expect the influx of new faces to diminish Levein’s commitment to nurturing young players.
“A lot of boys left last year so the gaffer had a bit of a job to rebuild the squad,” he said. “It is a bit of a different changing room, and there’s a different feel about the club. I haven’t really seen many of the players because I’m injured but I hope the new signings can be good for the club. What last season proved, though, was that the gaffer trusts young players. If you are good enough you’ll play, and that it’s nothing to do with your age.”