Craig Levein has confirmed that new striker David Vanecek is set to lead the Hearts attack in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup showdown with Livingston.
The 27-year-old Czech is short of match fitness as he hasn’t played since his last game for former club Teplice seven weeks ago. However, Levein is ready to throw the target man in from the start in this weekend’s Tynecastle clash with the Lions.
“Is he 100 per cent? No. Is he ready to start? He hasn’t got a choice!” said the manager. “He hasn’t played since the end of November, something like that. It is almost like a full summer of six weeks or something like that so he is not fully up to speed but we will see how he does.”
Levein is weighing up whether to include John Souttar in the squad tomorrow after the Scotland centre-back returned to training this week following more than three months out with a hip issue. “He was back on Wednesday in full training and looks fantastic, like he has never been away,” said the manager. “The operation has solved a couple of impingement issues he had in his hips and there were some positions he got into where he felt restricted but all of those have gone.
“We will see how he is in training before the Livingston game but he is one of our best players and he was in a fantastic place mentally when he went out. He had just got into the Scotland team and had played a couple of matches. He was getting to that point over a year and a half ago when he did his Achilles and was out for nine months and unfortunately he has had this, which wasn’t quite as long term but it was a difficult situation. So it is great to see him back on the training ground and he looks like he is going to be ok.”
Uche Ikpeazu is a couple of weeks behind Souttar in the comeback trail and the striker is expected to be back in action early in February.
“He got the screw out of his foot on Monday and has to do nothing for a week to make sure there is no infections or nonsense like that. His foot is stable and basically he will be able to go full pelt, but he will have to catch up a little bit (fitness-wise) so we are looking at maybe two or three weeks.”
Peter Haring recently underwent a double hernia operation. “Peter is out and we had a couple of wee niggles over in Spain but nothing important,” said Levein when asked about the fitness of his squad for tomorrow’s game. After adding Vanecek and defender Conor Shaugnessy to his squad in recent weeks, Levein is not anticipating any further January arrivals at Tynecastle.
“I doubt it,” he said. “There was one player that we thought was a good possibility but it didn’t work out.”