Alex Cochrane offers fitness and form verdict as key Hearts defender returns from suspension

Alex Cochrane is champing at the bit to return to the Hearts XI against Kilmarnock in the Premier Sports Cup on Wednesday – after explaining why he wants to play in every single game.

The left wing-back missed Sunday’s cinch Premiership victory over St Johnstone at Tynecastle through suspension after his sending off at Celtic Park the previous week.

It was the first game he has not started for Hearts this season, but Cochrane didn’t feel he benefited from the rest. He is in peak condition and prefers the rhythm of regular games to stay that way.

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Just as well. With Kye Rowles joining Craig Halkett on the injury list and Stephen Kingsley being managed carefully due to a tight hamstring, the 22-year-old Englishman’s presence in defence will be more important than ever in the coming weeks as the games continue to come thick and fast.

Alex Cochrane will return from suspension against Kilmarnock. He feels as fit as ever and wants to play in every game. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS

“I’m feeling fit and fresh,” Cochrane told the Edinburgh Evening News. “I like to play every game. I feel like it gives me a good rhythm and keeps me going. I’m happy to play every game and feel as fit as anything.”

On loan from Brighton last season, Cochrane has come on leaps and bounds since signing a permanent deal at Tynecastle in the summer.

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Growing in authority, he has been one of Hearts’ best and most consistent performers in the opening month of the campaign and there is much more to come.

“I feel there are still improvements to make in my game,” he explained. “I’m working on stuff with the coaching staff. I feel like I’ve had a good start to the season, but there are still lots of things I want to improve on.”

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Having had his first taste of European football in the home and away legs against FC Zurich, Cochrane is excited about what lies ahead in the group stage of the Conference League. He is certainly not complaining about the busy schedule.

“I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” he said of the Zurich double header. “It was a good experience and I’m looking forward to group stage football now. There will be some tough games and some hostile places to go, but it is really exciting.”

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