Hearts’ Soufian El Hassnaoui aims for a derby debut

Recovering: El Hassnaoui
Recovering: El Hassnaoui
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Soufian El Hassnaoui will be ready to play for Hearts in approximately four weeks, according to head coach Robbie Neilson.

That could see the striker making his debut in the Edinburgh derby against Hibs at Tynecastle on Sunday, August 17.

The Moroccan has begun light running and cycling after undergoing a groin operation last month before he joined Hearts. Although his rehabilitation is progressing as planned, he is unlikely to take part in any of the remaining pre-season friendlies.

There remains an outside chance of him being fit in time for Hearts’ first SPFL Championship match against Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday, August 10, but Neilson will not rush the former Sparta Rotterdam and De Graafschap player. A more realistic target at the moment is the season’s first derby.

“He’ll be about another four weeks, I reckon,” Neilson told the Evening News. “He’s just starting his rehab at the moment and he’ll continue with that. I don’t want to rush him.

“He had the operation and he’s rehabilitating from that. We don’t want him back too early when he’s not 100 per cent fit. We want him bang on when he comes back.

“He’s able to do a wee bit of light jogging and some work on the bike. He won’t be too long. Being slightly pessimistic, I’d say it will probably be four weeks.”

Teenager Callum Paterson has signed a new three-year contract to keep him at Tynecastle until 2017. His existing deal had 12 months remaining but the new Hearts hierarchy have granted him an improved deal.

Meanwhile, Hearts have now sold more season tickets than last year after reaching the 11,000 mark just a month after sales commenced.

Supporters are being urged to purchase their seats quickly as backing for the Tynecastle club continues to grow despite relegation.

Exiting administration with new owners and new signings has captured the imagination of fans, resulting in 11,000 season ticket sales inside four weeks.

Phase two of the sales process began today and Hearts are advising fans to move fast ahead of a historic Scottish Championship campaign involving themselves, Hibs and Rangers.

“The only way Hearts supporters can guarantee themselves a seat for the Category A league games against Hibs and Rangers is by purchasing a season ticket,” said a Tynecastle spokesperson.

“Demand to be part of the revival has been incredible and, despite season tickets having only been on sale for a month, there is restricted availability left. There is huge interest in the forthcoming Championship campaign and fans should consider purchasing a season ticket to make sure they don’t miss a second of the action.”

Season tickets can be bought by visiting www.heartsfc.co.uk, or by calling 0871 663 1874 (option 1), or in person at the Tynecastle ticket centre.