Craig Levein explains why Hearts need rest and recuperation in St Andrews

Craig Levein is preparing Hearts for Saturday's Scottish Cup final. Pic: SNS
Craig Levein is preparing Hearts for Saturday's Scottish Cup final. Pic: SNS
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Craig Levein insists Hearts need recovery time in St Andrews as players try to regain fitness for Saturday’s Scottish Cup final. The club headed off for a three-day training camp after suffering more injuries to key men against Celtic yesterday.

Midfielder Olly Lee was substituted after 12 minutes of the 2-1 defeat after twisting his knee. Full-back Michael Smith came off with tight calves, while deputy captain John Souttar had a groin issue.

Levein won’t decide on his starting line-up until late this week, with striker Uche Ikpeazu and midfielders Peter Haring and Arnaud Djoum rested to recover from other ailments.

The manager told the Evening News that yesterday’s Hearts goalscorer Jake Mulraney is a strong contender to start at Hampden Park. He was also impressed after starting teenagers Aaron Hickey, Connor Smith and Andy Irving.

“We want some rest and recuperation,” he said. “It has been a long, hard season. We did some work in the build-up to the Celtic game with the cup final in mind. We have more stuff to do next week

“Michael’s calves were tight, John Souttar’s groin was a bit sore at half-time so we did the same with him and took him off. Some of the kids had cramp, which is normal. I thought the kids did well and I was pleased with them. In general, we’ve been to Celtic and played a lot worse than that before. There is disappointment at losing the game and also Olly getting injured.

“I was happy with the team. We probably passed the ball better than we have done for a while at Celtic Park. That’s a consequence of playing the young boys. That’s what they do. I’m disappointed to lose the game. All credit to Celtic. They have won the league and deserve the plaudits.

“I haven’t had the chance to sit down and decide exactly what we’re going to do. Jake has done himself no harm with his performance against Celtic. Likewise Sean Clare and Craig Wighton.

“I also thought the three youngsters were really good – Andy Irving, Connor Smith and Aaron Hickey. There were lots of good performances today. John Souttar was outstanding, Conor Shaughnessy too.”