Steven Naismith set for early return to action, says Hearts boss Craig Levein

Steven Naismith is desperate to play a part in Hearts' end-of-season run-in. Picture: SNS.
Steven Naismith is desperate to play a part in Hearts' end-of-season run-in. Picture: SNS.
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Steven Naismith could return to action sooner than anticipated.

The on-loan Hearts striker had feared his season was over after being warned he could be sidelined for 6 to ten weeks with a knee problem.

But the 32-year-old is now in a race against time to play a part in the Tynecastle side’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle after an operation to remove some cartilage went more smoothly than expected.

“The operation went really well,” said manager Craig Levein. “It wasn’t as bad as they first feared so I’m fairly certain that he’ll play again before the season ends.

“That’s a boost, of course, but I’m not sure how long it will be. I don’t want to put a number [of weeks] on it and be wrong.”

The 13 April Hampden fixture may be too soon forNaismith but he is desperate to be involved in the season run-in and play a part in helping Hearts qualify for Europe and lift some silverware, and also force his way back into the Scotland squad for the June qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium.

Having had the operation down south, with parent club Norwich City overseeing the arrangements, Naismith is now back in Scotland and Levein says it won’t be long until the talismanic player, who has scored 16 goals in 31 games for club and country this term, is working to get back to match fitness.

“Most of the rehab will be done here,” Levein added. “The fact that he’s back up the road with his family is a good thing for him as well.

“I don’t think there will be much rehab in the first couple of weeks. We’ll just let the whole thing settle and he could probably do that at home. But after that we’ll get cracking. It helps add to the feelgood

factor around the club.”