Hearts expect goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal to be fit for cup opener

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Hearts manager Craig Levein expects new goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal to overcome an ankle infection and make his competitive debut against Cove Rangers tomorrow.

The Czech’s injury is improving and, although he appeared in only one pre-season friendly, Levein is hopeful he will make Hearts’ opening Betfred Cup tie in Aberdeen.

Zdenek Zlamal has had an infection in his ankle

Zdenek Zlamal has had an infection in his ankle

Zlamal returned to the Czech Republic at the weekend to help move his family to Scotland. The 32-year-old, who left Fastav Zlin for Tynecastle Park last month, now hopes to get down to business against Cove.

“Zlamal had an infection in his ankle. He went back to Czech Republic over the weekend to bring his family over. He has been on antibiotics and I’d be expecting him to be involved on Wednesday,” explained Levein, who only has Northern Irish teenager Bobby Burns as an injury doubt for tomorrow.

“Bobby got a knock on his knee on Saturday. Kyle Lafferty is okay. He trained on Saturday and he’s fine.”

Should Zlamal fail to declare himself fit, Hearts expect to have the 20-year-old American trialist Kevin Silva signed in time to deputise. “Kevin will sign. It’s all agreed, and we’ve got Kelby Mason as well. I’m also in the process of trying to find another goalkeeper,” said Levein.

Silva and Mason will compete for the goalkeeping slot in Hearts’ reserve team this season, with another keeper wanted to challenge Zlamal at first-team level.

Levein does not anticipate any other incomings for now. “I started looking for new players in January. The process of bringing players in has been put before the process of moving anybody out,” he said.

“What you’re seeing just now is probably our maximum number, bar another goalkeeper. There are two or three who will move on but there’s no need to talk about names or anything just now.”

Asked about talks with free agent, English midfielder Sean Clare, Levein remained coy. “There are things I’ve read that I’m not prepared to get involved in just now. If anything comes up, then we can talk about it.

“I just feel, right now, I’ve done quite a lot of business. We have six weeks till the window closes and other things might happen. I just want to be more prepared than last season. To do that, you need to get players in early.”

Chances of the Manchester United left-back Demetri Mitchell returning to Edinburgh are up in the air at the moment. He endeared himself to Hearts fans on loan during the second half of last season but United won’t decide his future until later in the summer.

Derby County have been credited with an interest in Mitchell, who is on tour with United in America. “One of the reasons we brought Ben Garuccio and Jake Mulraney in was to make sure we weren’t in a situation where we’re waiting on Demi and then can’t get him,” said Levein. “That might happen further down the line, I don’t know. I’ve yet to have that conversation with Man United.”