Four Hearts players could return from injury against St Johnstone
Edinburgh club's crisis is finally easing as key men near full fitness
Four Hearts players could potentially return from injury against St Johnstone on Wednesday evening. Jamie Walker, Steven Naismith, Aidy White and Loic Damour are all pushing to be involved in the vital Premiership match at McDiarmid Park.
The participation of forwards Walker and Naismith is not certain as they must complete two days of full training this week before being considered. Even then, manager Craig Levein may err on the side of caution with both players ahead of Sunday's Betfred Cup semi-final with Rangers.
Defender White will be available after missing Saturday's goalless draw with Livingston due to concussion. Midfielder Damour was an unused substitute in that match having recovered from a hamstring problem and will likely return to action in Perth.
Naismith and Walker have been out since August because of hamstring issues and a broken leg respectively. Levein explained that both have an outside chance of making the squad.
"Naisy is a possibility for Wednesday. He has to train fully yesterday and today and then I'll make a decision," said the manager. "I might leave him to do a full week's training and then involve him on Sunday. I haven't made my mind up.
"He is improving and he is training with us. He has completed full sessions and trained with the reserves over the weekend. He isn't going to be 100 per cent so I have to be very careful we don't put him back in too early and he breaks down.
"Jamie is in the same position. He is training with us so we want him to get through a couple of days this week and then we will see. Maybe they could make the bench, I'm not sure yet. When they come back, I want them to be ready to come back.
"They are such important players that I don't want to put them on the field when they're only 75 per cent. If they don't have an impact in the game then that doesn't help us at all. I'd be more inclined to play boys who are fit and available rather than others who are 75 per cent - and maybe not physically capable of making a difference.
"We will have Aidy and Loic back for Wednesday, so we are starting to see people returning to full training."
The experienced Ireland midfielder Glenn Whelan remains doubtful after a tight hamstring precluded him at the weekend.
Hearts are just one point better off than the Premiership's bottom club St Johnstone ahead of their midweek visit, with both clubs desperate for victory.
The Japanese forward Ryotaro Meshino is recovering from the illness which forced him off against Livingston, but he may not be used from the start.
"Ryo was feeling better yesterday but we have three games in a week and I don't know if he is ready for that yet. It will be more about how is feeling than anything else," said Levein.
"As for our other injuries, Conor Washington will still be a while yet, as will John Souttar, Craig Halkett and Ben Garuccio. Walker and Naismith are the two who are further ahead."