Paul McCallum is expected to play from the start for Hearts against Inverness Caledonian Thistle this weekend.
The on-loan West Ham United striker is likely to lead the forward line as manager Gary Locke reorganises his team, with both Callum Paterson and Kevin McHattie suspended.
Locke explained today that he hasn’t brought McCallum north to leave him on the substitutes’ bench and hinted strongly that the 20-year-old would play a key part in the Highlands. He made his debut as a replacement against the same opponents in the League Cup semi-final but, having trained and scored two goals in an under-20 match last Tuesday, Locke feels the time is right to put him into the team.
Paterson and McHattie will both serve one-match bans on Saturday having received six league bookings this season. Paterson’s absence in particular creates a void in attacking areas, with McCallum the most obvious replacement.
“We haven’t brought him up here to be a fringe player. He’ll probably say the same thing himself,” said Locke. “We’ve brought him in to play. We do have one or two suspensions this weekend with Kevin McHattie and Callum Paterson banned. Paul will have a chance if he trains well this week. He’s done well in the under-20 games he’s played for us so far and he’ll be looking to get involved at the weekend.”
Players have had time off to recuperate since the semi-final loss and Locke is now focused on resuming league business in determined fashion. “We’re really disappointed we haven’t made the final but we just need to look forward now,” he said. “One thing about football – you can’t dwell on things, although there’s no disguising the fact that the last week has been very difficult.
“Some players have had a bit of time off, but the guys who hadn’t played as much were in because we had a couple of under-20 games. I felt it was important to give some players a couple of days off, particularly the ones who have played the majority of matches for us. We now regroup and look to the remaining league games.”