Hearts hope that influential midfielder Peter Haring will be able to soldier on until the winter break before undergoing a hernia operation.
The Austrian missed Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Aberdeen due to a strain caused as a result of the problem which has been plaguing him recently. He is unlikely to be risked tomorrow as Hearts bid to go six points clear at the top of the Premiership by beating Dundee at Dens Park, but should be fine to face Celtic in the Betfred Cup semi-final on Sunday.
With key trio Christophe Berra, John Souttar and Uche Ikpeazu already ruled out long term by injury, manager Craig Levein is hopeful that Haring, one of Hearts’ best players this season, will be able to play on until the end of December before having his hernia surgery at the start of the league’s three-and-a-half-week break at the start of the new year.
“The plan is to get to January and then have the operation but whether we can do that, I don’t know,” Levein told the Evening News. “If we can get through to January, he would only miss one or two games because a hernia is only about a four-week lay-off. If we can, I’d rather wait and do it then so we can use him between now and January. I don’t know if he’ll be ready for Dundee. Even if he is, I don’t know if he’ll play two games in a week just now. He’d need to be 100 per cent, and I don’t know if that’s going to be the case. I’m very hopeful of him being ready for the semi. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.”
As a result of the seriousness of injuries to his key players, Levein has been pondering the possibility of adding a free agent to help ease the situation.
However, the manager is reluctant to recruit anyone on a short-term deal who isn’t ready to play instantly, while centre-back Berra could be back from injury in December and Czech striker David Vanecek – who scored his sixth goal of the season for Teplice on Saturday – will be arriving in January to replenish the squad.
Levein is also encouraged by the addition of players like Marcus Godinho and Sean Clare. Godinho made his first appearance on Saturday in six months after recovering from a knee problem. The 21-year-old was a surprise inclusion but produced an impressive first-half display as Hearts roared into a 2-0 half-time lead before giving away a penalty early in the second half.
“Marcus has not even had a reserve game and he’s not really had a lot of training,” said Levein. “With Michael Smith being suspended, I had to throw him in and considering how long he’s been out, I thought he was really good. I was chancing my arm.
“I would have felt reasonably okay if that was a senior player with a few hundred games under his belt but with young players it’s really difficult for them to find their form without playing matches. He managed to look like he’d hardly been away, so all credit to him.”
With Godinho having been pitched in earlier than anticipated, Smith is expected to return to the side tomorrow as Levein manages his high-flying squad through an intense run of fixtures. It remains to be seen what involvement Clare will have at Dens Park after the former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder came off the bench to make his debut in the closing 28 minutes of Saturday’s frenetic encounter.
“Like Marcus, Sean hasn’t played for a long time, but at least Marcus knows the league. Sean just couldn’t get his breath because the pace of the game was frightening. I think he thought ‘what the hell have I come into here?’ But it was good to get him on.
“We need to get him up to speed. Because we’ve got competition for places in midfield, I can maybe bring him in gradually rather than throw him in. I just wanted to give him a taste of the atmosphere and let him feel what it’s like.”