HEARTS boss Gary Locke faces an anxious wait to find out if Callum Tapping will be fit in time for the start of the new season.
The midfielder had been in fine form against a Liverpool Select in Belfast on Saturday, only to be stretchered off in the final ten minutes with a knee injury.
It looked a bad one at the time, but the player managed to walk on to the club’s flight home from Ireland with his leg encased in a protective boot.
Locke is keeping his fingers crossed that the injury is not as serious as it was initially feared to be.
The Tynecastle manager has been impressed by the youngster throughout pre-season and hinted that he could become a key part of his plans this season.
Hearts kick off their Premiership campaign against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Sunday and Locke is hoping Tapping will be available.
He said: “He has been great for us lately. He’s been one of the best players of pre-season and, up until that injury, had been looking really sharp and fit.
“We will just have to keep our fingers crossed and I am hoping that it is not too serious. You can’t really legislate for that, there is contact in games and there’s nothing that you can do about it.
“The challenge wasn’t a great one and he has got a sore one but we will just have to wait and see.
“When you see a stretcher coming on then your heart is in your mouth, but I’m optimistic he’ll be okay.
“He’s been up and walking about, which is a good sign.”
The Liverpool match was Hearts’ last friendly before the start of the SPFL Premiership this weekend and neither side shirked a tackle. Tapping’s
injury aside, there was a clash between Ryan Stevenson and young Jordan Rossiter and
tempers threatened to boil over on several other occasions.
Locke felt that the 90 minutes was as close to a competitive match that his side could have been given.
He continued: “It was a
competitive game and similar to an SPL match, where there were loads of tackles flying in.
“I thought we did well, but we had chances and didn’t stick them away and we need to brush up on that.
“I don’t have a lot of options and in attack is one area we are very light.
“But we’ve looked at that and Ryan Stevenson and Callum Paterson have done great up there.”