Jamie Walker admits he still suffers with recurring pain from a persistent knee injury and is often sore after training and matches.
The Hearts winger played with a strapping on his left leg against FC Infonet on Thursday because the area is again causing him discomfort.
Surgery on the same knee last December was intended to cure the problem. An operation in Bradford to remove a small section of bone was declared successful, but the injury caused Walker to miss more than three months of last season. He is still not pain free.
He explained today how he feels sore after intense physical activity, and is simply hoping that the injury settles down over the next few weeks. “I got a scan in the first few days when I came back [for pre-season training] and it’s healed better than it did before,” he told the Evening News.
“I’m still getting a bit of pain so hopefully, as the season goes on, it gets better. It’s the same knee I had the operation on.”
He conceded that the injury is now playing on his mind. “I think so, a wee bit. I missed the last few games of last season to try and let it rest but I can’t use that as an excuse. I need to keep my head down and work hard and hopefully I get the rewards.
“I just need to keep stretching and doing my exercises. Hopefully it will loosen off and go away. When I get going it’s quite good but after games it can be a bit sore. We’ll need to see how it is.”
Hearts will hope Walker is fit to face Infonet in Wednesday’s Europa League first qualifying round return leg. Hearts hold a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at Tynecastle after an indifferent performance.
“At the end of the day, it’s a victory,” said Walker. “I think everyone knows we can do better and the Estonians have got the away goal. We need to go over there and try to get a goal. If we do that we could virtually end the tie.
“You saw on Thursday that they can pass the ball about and they’re not a bad side. We’ll need to be better than we were on Thursday night when we go to Estonia.
“You could see Infonet were a bit fitter and sharper. Hopefully, with 90 minutes under our belts, it will stand us in good stead next week. We want to try and get the job done over there to go further in the competition.”
Head coach Robbie Neilson has already warned his squad of the perils of trying to defend a 2-1 lead away from home. “The gaffer told us straight after the game. He said 2-1 isn’t the best scoreline to take into the away leg. If they score and we don’t, we’ll be out,” continued Walker.
“They came here and sat in and were difficult to break down at times. They need a goal so next week they should come out a bit more. We can maybe then expose them and hit on the counter-attack.
“They are experienced players who have played lots of international matches. I think they were happy with 2-1 and tried to kill the game, making fouls and using their body well. They’re experienced and we’re still young so we can only learn going into next week.
“Estonia isn’t a big nation for playing football but the players they had were all comfortable on the ball. They knew the game well and they were well set up. We worked all week on the basis that they were going to play five at the back. No matter who you’re playing, if they’ve got five at the back then it’s hard to break through.”
The 23-year-old stated he wasn’t happy with his own performance in the first leg. Starting out wide, he moved into a more central position late in the match but was unable to exert much influence.
“I don’t think I even had a shot on Thursday night so that’s disappointing,” he said. “When I moved into the No.10 role there was no space to get on the ball. Infonet’s gameplan worked well. We were just happy to get a win in the end.
“I think we have to be professional over there. We need to go there and pass the ball around. We want to try and get a goal. We have a couple of new signings, we’re a young group playing against an experienced team so we need to learn.”