Hearts boss Craig Levein ‘hopes’ Steven Naismith will return before end of season

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Hearts manager Craig Levein is hopeful that Steven Naismith will return before the end of the season.

The Tynecastle boss confirmed the striker requires surgery on his knee and will miss between eight and ten weeks of action.

Hearts manager Craig Levein hopes Steven Naismith will return before the end of the season. Picture: SNS/Ross Parker

Hearts manager Craig Levein hopes Steven Naismith will return before the end of the season. Picture: SNS/Ross Parker

The club’s top scorer will go under the knife on Monday.

Naismith was replaced at half-time of the club’s 2-1 defeat to Celtic at the end of last month and now faces a second lengthy spell on the sidelines. He missed eight games earlier in the season due to a knee injury.

His absence had a huge impact then as Hearts won just once, slipping from the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

“He goes for an op on Monday,” Levein said. “It’s unfortunate but it is what it is.

“I think he’s getting a little bit shaved off his cartilage again so what was it last time, eight to ten weeks or something like that.

“I hope (he’s back before the end of the season). He came back really quickly last time so I’m hopeful it’ll be the same again.”#

Levein rued the player’s bad luck, with big matches for club and country on the horizon.

He sat out Monday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final draw with Partick Thistle and will be out for the replay as well as a possible semi final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. In addition, he’ll miss Scotland Euro 2020 qualification matches against Kazakhstan and San Marino.

“I feel for Steven more than anything else,” Levein said. “He obviously wanted to be involved on Monday and we’ve got a replay we want to get through and other big games.

“He’s also sitting on 49 caps, one away from his 50th. He’s a player whose generation have missed going to a major final and there’s a chance Scotland might get to a major finals so I feel sorry for him.

“He’s worked ever so hard to get back from last time and now this has happened again.”

Levein now hopes that the club’s other forwards will step into the void.

“When he was out previously we had a shortage of strikers,” he said. “Craig Wighton’s back fully fit after an ankle problem and we’ve got David Vanacek in and we’ve got Uche Ikpeazu.

“So I don’t feel quite as anxious as previously.”