Riccarton has been declared a no-go zone for the next two days as Hearts bid to eradicate the virus which decimated their squad and caused tonight’s match at Inverness to be postponed.
The Tynecastle club were successful with their request to have the Caledonian Stadium encounter rescheduled after several first-team players were struck down by a contagious bug and deemed unable to make the trip north. The effects of the illness, allied to injuries and suspensions, left Hearts without 17 players in total.
Prior to confirmation that the game was off, a skeletal 14-player squad, made up half of development players, had left the club’s Riccarton training base around 2pm to head for the Highlands in case their request was rejected. One of the main reasons it was accepted was the fact the only goalkeeper on board was 17-year-old rookie Kelby Mason, with Neil Alexander and Jack Hamilton among those struck by the virus. That meant Hearts wouldn’t have had a back-up option over the age of 15 to go on the bench.
The travelling squad, who had reached House of Bruar, Perthshire, were able to perform a u-turn when the match was postponed around 4pm. It has been rescheduled for next Tuesday, April 12.
Prior to that, Hearts host Aberdeen on Friday night and preparations will be disrupted for the sold-out Tynecastle showdown as the players have been told to stay away from Riccarton until Thursday.
“We’re going to shut the club down until Thursday morning and then get the boys back in to prepare for Friday,” head coach Robbie Neilson told the Evening News. “It’s not ideal preparation-wise but the doctors have advised us to shut the place down to make sure we clear it up because it’s highly contagious.
“The worry was that everyone catches it and then starts spreading it everywhere. I don’t see it being a problem getting everyone ready for Friday.
“I think a couple of days off will clear it up and we’ll all be back and ready to go.
“Stevie Crawford [assistant coach] and I will come in but the rest of the staff are staying away.”