FAYCAL RHERRAS is doubtful for Hearts’ league match with Dundee tomorrow after taking ill on international duty with Morocco.
The full-back was assessed by doctors upon his return to Riccarton and his chances of playing this weekend remain 50/50.
Midfielder Don Cowie has recovered from a calf injury and is in the squad, but Rherras may miss out. He did not feature in Morocco’s World Cup qualifier in Gabon or the friendly with Canada due to illness. Hearts are hoping he recovers over the next 24 hours.
“Don Cowie will be fine, he trained the last couple of days,” said head coach Robbie Neilson. “Faycal had a wee problem away with the national team but he’s seen the doctors and we hope he’ll be fit. He was just ill when he was over there, he wasn’t involved. He flew back in on Wednesday.” Neilson and his players go into the Dundee match buoyed by news that work on Tynecastle’s new £12million main stand can begin next month. City of Edinburgh Council granted Hearts planning permission on Wednesday and thus guaranteed that the club’s long-term future will be in Gorgie.
Neilson was a Hearts player in 2004 when plans to sell Tynecastle and move to Murrayfield were strongly opposed. He admitted a move would have been a huge mistake. He cited West Ham United’s recent move from Upton Park to London’s Olympic Stadium as an example of how a club can lose its identity.
“You look at West Ham, who had a great season last year and then they moved to the Olympic Stadium and they’re struggling this year,” Neilson pointed out. “You lose that identity, the fans lose the identity and you lose home advantage for quite a few seasons until you get it back again.
“It’s important we stay here. We played European games at Murrayfield and it was a different atmosphere, it was difficult. You never want to leave Tynecastle because of the atmosphere and the intensity. It was totally different going to Murrayfield.
“We had a couple of games with crowds of 20-odd thousand but it seemed like you had 5000 compared to Tynecastle.
“It’s always been spoken about, leaving Tynecastle because of the position and size of it. The work that everyone has done – Ann Budge, the board and the fans – to get us in a position that we can stay where we are and develop the stand is great.”
The new structure will hold 7290 seats and take the stadium’s capacity to 20,099. It will replace the existing 102-year-old main stand. “Everyone talks about the atmosphere at Tynecastle but the atmosphere is created by the three newer stands because they’re right on top of you,” said Neilson.
“The older one has been there for over a 100 years now and it’s served it’s course. It’s the same architect and the new one will be similar to the other three, so that will make it even more intense.”
Neilson and the Hearts staff have made do with the current main stand but the new facilities will bring the stadium into line with modern European requirements.
“It’s not ideal right now. One of the issues with the European games is that we needed to alter a lot of things because there was all the stipulation about the media, changing rooms and the medical side of it. The new stand will cover all that.
“From the commercial and corporate side of it, it will definitely help the turnover of the club, which then benefits the budget of the first team. Then you can start developing more on that side of it.
“We’ve had a few meetings about what we feel we need in the new stand, like warm-up areas and physio. It’s what all the new stadia have nowadays and we’ve not had it. The only downside now is that the away dressing-room will be a decent size instead of being a cupboard.”