MARIUS ZALIUKAS could make an unexpected return from injury in time to play in Hearts’ final SPL match of the season against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
The Lithuanian is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from torn ankle ligaments and is hopeful of resuming full training next week.
Provided he suffers no reaction, he is likely to be in contention for the Aberdeen match on Saturday, May 18. That may also double as his swansong as a Hearts player, for the club captain is out of contract this summer and has not agreed a new deal.
Zaliukas tore ankle ligaments against Dundee United at Tannadice in February and was told by medical staff he would not play again until after the summer.
Manager Gary Locke today explained why he is hopeful of having the centre-back available before the season ends.
“He’s a bit ahead of schedule and he’s working with the physio at the minute.
“Hopefully he’ll train next week and, if he does that, he has got every possibility of being involved against Aberdeen,” said Locke.
“He’ll only play if he shows in training that he’s ready to go. It’s unfair on other players if someone comes in who isn’t quite right. Marius has been out for a long time, so it’s important that, if he does play, he is fully fit.
“I hope he’ll train next week. He’s ahead of schedule with his rehabilitation. The shout from the physio was that he wouldn’t play again this season, but some players can come back quicker than others. If he trains next week, there’s a possibility he could be involved before the end of the season.”