RYAN Stevenson admitted that in other circumstances he would have waited longer to return from injury, but believes that, given Hearts’ plight, he had little option but to volunteer for duty.
The midfielder was back in Gary Locke’s team for their draw against St Mirren on Sunday after a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring strain, and is expected to play an influential role for the visitors in this evening’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road, where he scored the only goal of the game the last time the fixture was played.
“I was feeling a bit tired, a bit tender, the day after the St Mirren game, but I’m feeling okay,” said Stevenson, who was also out injured earlier in the season with knee damage. “It was probably not ideal for me having to play the full 90 minutes, but in the end it was a good point, and we were unlucky maybe not to take the three points. Another step in the right direction after a poor run of form over the last four to six weeks.
“You know what I’m like with my knee as well – as soon as I wasn’t in any pain I was eager to get back. I could maybe have done with an extra two to three weeks’ rest just to totally make sure, but the kind of person I am and the situation we’re in, it’s not really the time to be sitting on the sidelines thinking ‘I’ll just take my time getting back’. I was desperate to get back, and hopefully I can help the team over the next four or five weeks.
“The season has been disappointing for me with injuries. With the season it is, I definitely don’t want it to slip by and look back at the end and ask ‘What if? Could I have played through it?’
“If we’d a big squad and weren’t in the situation we’re in, I’d probably take two or three weeks to come back from it. But the way things are just now, if I can help the team and the manager wants me to play, I’m 100 per cent going to play for them.”
Stevenson also made an early return from injury in that last derby, a League Cup quarter-final at the end of October. His first-half goal turned the match on its head after Hibs had dominated the early stages, and he confessed he still enjoys watching replays of it despite his team-mates’ protestations.
“I do. I think everybody else is sick of hearing about it. It was good, obviously: every derby goal is nice to get, whether it’s a tap-in or like the last one I scored. Hopefully if I get another chance on Thursday I can put that one away as well.
“We rode the storm for 30 minutes then went back up the park and scored. Everything was against us at that stage, the same as it will be this time as well. They’re doing reasonably well just now and we’re big underdogs, but we’re happy with that.
“Personally it was a great goal, but the most important thing for us is to go down there and get the three points. We’ve been disappointing in the last four or five weeks, but we’ll take the confidence from Sunday into it. But the least we owe the fans is to come away with three points. The biggest thing will be to get over that line and be plus one.
“I think we can’t really use the excuse that we’re young and inexperienced. Most of the boys have played half a season now. We all know the situation. It’s getting to that stage where games are running out and we really need to kick on. We need to try to get above zero points, and there’s no better way of doing that than going down to Easter Road and hopefully getting three points.”