The Hearts treatment room at Oriam has been crowded of late, with Craig Levein not having his injury woes to seek.
Don Cowie, Arnaud Djoum, Prince Buaben, Malaury Martin and Aaron Hughes have been forced to miss games because of injuries, with Jamie Walker the most recent addition to the list after a hamstring injury forced him off during last weekend’s 3-1 reverse at the hands of Rangers.
Cowie is, however, likely to feature in tomorrow’s game against Kilmarnock at Murrayfield, which should prove to be a welcome boost given the threadbare look of Hearts’ engine room.
It’s a situation that’s necessitated Levein to deploy the talented yet inexperienced Harry Cochrane and Lewis Moore as central midfielders. Ross Callachan is still a player adjusting to the step up from League One, and his status as the elder statesman in the middle of the park against Rangers highlighted the absence of just about every senior player in that area of the pitch.
It’s an issue that’s been apparent to Cowie whenever’s he’s glanced around the medical department. “The annoying thing is that we have had so many injured in a similar position, but there’s nothing you can do about that. There’s no point feeling sorry for yourself. You just need to get on with it,” said the 34-year-old.
“When you are injured, it is difficult, especially if you are in there on your own, so it is good to have others just to help you through the day at the gym and things like that. When I looked around and saw the players in there with me, it just hit home what a good core we have. You see Arnaud, Malo, Prince, Connor [Randall], Aaron and Ash [Smith-Brown], and when we are all fit at the same time, giving the manager options, then that can only make us stronger. The sooner we all get back, the better.”
While there’s a camaraderie fostered between injured team-mates working their way back to fitness, some aspects of recovery are better for morale than others. “Prince definitely isn’t the one who keeps the morale up, his music is absolutely terrible!” Cowie laughed. “That was an eye-opener for me. I couldn’t even describe it – I’ve never heard anything like it. It just goes from one extreme to another with every song.
“It’s a bad time when you are injured – the hardest thing you can go through as a player – and, if you have someone to help you through it, then great. But I’d rather we were all fit.”
In the short-term, pitching in youngsters, albeit those who appear to have bright futures, hasn’t been ideal in high intensity, high-stakes games such as Hibs and Rangers. Longer term, though, Cowie believes being handed such baptisms early in their careers will pay dividends.
“They’re great players with great ability and it’s just dealing with these experiences and the atmosphere that they’re not used to,” explained the Highlander. “It’s great for the club. It’s been great to watch them and see how they’ve acquitted themselves. The club’s in a really good place – not just these players, but beyond that it’s really exciting.
“You’ve seen with Harry, because of his age, the manager’s been a bit reluctant at times to start him, but the way the games have progressed he’s felt he’s had to put him on at half-time in a couple and that’s testament to him that the manager just can’t leave him out or can’t not put him on.
“I was nowhere near a first team at 16. I was just trying to get bigger, get stronger and get fitter. For him to be playing for a team like Hearts at that age is incredible.
“You saw the impact he had against St Johnstone when he came on, who are renowned as a physical, tough team but, as a 16-year-old, he came on and I thought he was brilliant. It’s great to watch, not only as a team-mate but I’m sure as a fan. I know the club is really excited. Three or four years ago, you had the likes of Walker, [Sam] Nicholson and [Callum] Paterson coming through and it seems to be happening again.”