Aidy White in line for long-awaited Hearts debut
Hearts plan to give left-back Aidy White his first outing in maroon during next week’s trip to Ireland, the Evening News can reveal.
Two and a half years since his last competitive match, he is earmarked to play part of the friendly against Glenavon on Saturday, July 6.
The 27-year-old is taking part in running and ballwork during pre-season training at Riccarton as he strives to return from a troublesome groin injury. Hearts hope he will be fully fit in time for their opening Premiership fixture at Aberdeen in early August.
White signed a two-year contract at Tynecastle Park in March this year and has gradually been eased back into football. Injury forced him out of the game at Barnsley back in January 2017 and he is eager to rekindle his career in Scotland. The first step in that process could come at Mourneview Park in Lurgan a week on Saturday.
“We have been very cautious because of the length of time he has been out,” explained the Hearts manager Craig Levein. “We had it in our minds to have him ready for the start of the league season. He is heading in that direction.
“I’m hoping to play him for part of a game in Ireland – maybe 45 minutes in the second match. That’s the aim.”
White made over 100 appearances for Leeds United before joining Barnsley, where he won England’s Football League Trophy and the League One play-off final in 2016 under Hibs manager Paul Heckingbottom.
Recapturing full fitness would effectively give Hearts a significant new signing ahead of next season. The left-back position has been a problem area for years.
“Aidy is going to take a bit of time to get back to full speed,” admitted Levein. “It was always a risky signing because of what he has dealt with over the last two years. In all reality, if he hadn’t had the injury then we would never be anywhere near signing him. We’ll see how he goes in the course of time.
“He is doing well and I’m really pleased with him. He isn’t doing all of the running yet but he is gradually building it up. He has completed every day so far and seems to be heading in the right direction, which is pleasing.
“There are still a few tests to come with matches and an increased workload, but everything has gone as well as we could have hoped up to this point.”
Aaron Hickey, Bobby Burns and Jake Mulraney are the other left-back contenders in Levein’s squad, with Ben Garuccio due back from cruciate ligament damage later in the year. White will take things one step at a time for now but is thrilled simply to be kicking a ball again.
“I think he is feeling good about himself and he’s got a smile on his face,” reported Levein, whose team began pre-season training in earnest this week. “He has been involved in some of the ballwork we have done in the afternoons and you can see he takes great pleasure from that.”