Double sessions help Hearts recover lost time as Peter Haring trains every second day
Double training sessions are helping Hearts players recover lost time after an enforced halt to their pre-season training programme. Gradually, some signs of normality are beginning to return on the Riccarton training fields.
Players are smiling again, working at a tempo mornings and afternoons, eager to impress manager Robbie Neilson and his assistants Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest. Even Peter Haring is involved, but only every second day.
Neilson’s measured approach is slowly helping revitalise a club still reeling from the perceived injustice of relegation. They won’t feel fully redeemed until the calendar in the coaching office details Premiership fixtures instead of Championship ones, but the early shoots of recovery are there.
“It's been good just to get back out on the training pitch. We had planned to give the boys some time off this week, so instead they were off last week for a few days and now they're back in,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“We've had some double training sessions this week to try and get them going again, but we need to be careful we don't push too hard in these early stages. The boys have been desperate to get back in and get working.”
Those double sessions can become triples if a gym session is also factored in. The aim is to be fully ready for the Betfred Cup group phase starting against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on October 6. By then, nearly seven months will have passed without a competitive Hearts match.
Might Haring be back in the team come that point? It is too early to say, but simply seeing the influential Austrian running around playing football again has enlivened team-mates and coaches alike.
For the moment, he trains with the first-team squad one day and then works in the gym the following day. This is the most progress he has made in the last 12 months.
After 15 months out with pelvic and hernia problems, Hearts are wise to proceed cautiously with him. “He did the majority of the session on Monday, which was great and he had no issues. We are just being careful with him,” explained Neilson.
“At the moment, he's doing one day training and one day in the gym. We will just build him up as soon as we can but as safely as we can as well. Just getting out there and training is a big thing for Peter.
“We are making sure he is fine because he has been out for such a long time. You can see the quality he's got and the composure in among the other players. We like having him on the training ground with the character he's got, so we are delighted to get him back.
“We just need to be careful with him and not push him too hard. It’s the same with any player who has been out injured for that length of time.”
His latest hernia operation means he can now exercise without pain and the surgery has been something of a breakthrough moment in that sense for Haring.
Fitness-permitting, he will be a pivotal figure in the Hearts midfield this season. His presence was badly missed during the 2019/20 campaign and if he can recapture top form he should have too much quality for Championship opponents.
Defender Christophe Berra could be another important figure over the coming months, particularly in light of John Souttar’s tragic Achilles rupture last week. Berra is currently recovering from a calf problem having missed training earlier this week but Neilson is not unduly concerned.
He and Craig Halkett are the only recognised centre-backs in Neilson’s first-team squad, although others like Haring and Michael Smith would be able to deputise in that position.
Hearts’ priority at the moment is to sign another defender for cover after losing Souttar. Berra is very much part of the plans after being loaned out to Dundee last season by former manager Daniel Stendel.
“We have plenty time to get him fit,” said Neilson. “It was just a wee calf niggle that we thought would clear up pretty quickly. It's just taking a few days longer than expected. It's nothing major. We are just not taking any risks with him.”
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