Hearts boss eager for return of injured stars

HEARTS manager Jim Jefferies is looking forward to several key players returning to full fitness over the coming weeks with Andy Driver, Rudi Skacel, Kevin Kyle and Mehdi Taouil all expected to be back in the first team before the end of the month.

Jefferies admitted he would have liked to tinker with his team following Thursday night's Europa League encounter with Paksi in Hungary. However, injuries meant his options were restricted.

Skacel made his first appearance of the season as a substitute in yesterday's 1-0 home defeat by Dundee United following an Achilles problem. He was today due to finalise a contract extension after talks with Hearts' majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

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Driver will play in a closed-door friendly tomorrow evening after being named in the matchday squad for Dundee United and Taouil could be available for Thursday's Europa League qualifying tie with Paksi after a groin problem, while strike-ace Kyle is hopeful of making a first-team return before August is out.

"Driver was in the squad yesterday but wouldn't have started the game," said Jefferies. "He'll get a closed-door game on Tuesday that we've arranged, as will Skacel because he's not had any games.

"If we can get them through the game on Tuesday, they'll give us other options. Jamie Hamill will be back available after suspension, Taouil will be touch and go. We didn't have the options to freshen it up yesterday because of players injured."

On Skacel's contract situation, Jefferies said: "Sergey (Fedotovas, Hearts director) is over and I think they will be talking to get it sorted out. He came to see me to say he was confident it would be sorted out and that's why I put him in the squad."