Steven Naismith may have been restricted to a frustrating watching brief at Hampden, but Craig Levein has revealed how the pedigree and invaluable guidance of the experienced attacker helped to ensure Hearts booked their Scottish Cup date with destiny.
The 32-year-old is currently rehabilitating from a knee operation he underwent in February, with the timeframe of his recovery affording him a tantalising opportunity to return in time for the showpiece against Celtic on 25 May.
However, he has remained an integral part of the Jambos’ dressing room during his absence, including in the build-up to Saturday’s semi-final triumph over Inverness.
Naismith, right, stayed at the Hearts team hotel in Glasgow last Friday night, offering advice to team-mates and seeking to settle nerves and focus the minds of the Hampden novices. Levein, who saw his side sweep the Caley Jags aside 3-0, believes that is a mark of the man.
“Naisy was great [in the semi-final]. He came and stayed overnight in the hotel and I saw him sitting and speaking to seven or eight players over the course of the evening and the next morning,” said Levein.
“He’s got a lot of experience to pass on. We had a few people that hadn’t been to Hampden. He does it so willingly, I don’t need to say to him: ‘you must go and speak to this guy’. He just does it. He wants to help and is a really good team-mate.
“He does that for us every day. You see him sitting looking at videos with some of the young players or chatting to people in the corridor. In time, I believe he would be a really good manager.”
Indeed, Levein refused to rule out including a coaching aspect to the permanent contract that he is growing increasingly confident that Naismith will sign.
Hearts remain locked in discussions with the player’s representatives about bringing him back to Gorgie when his deal with parent club, Norwich City, expires this summer and Levein is heartened by the progress being made.”
Two players who will most definitely not make the showdown with Celtic are Aidan Keena and Callumn Morrison, after Levein revealed the duo have been ruled out for the rest of the season with similar knee injuries.
l Hearts and Celtic have been handed a 50/50 split of tickets for the Scottish Cup final. Hearts have announced they will receive 20,220 for the 25 May showpiece.
The club say that “demand will more than outstrip supply”. They will put their tickets on sale on 26 April and use their loyalty point system to prioritise their die-hard fans. A Hearts statement read: “By making tickets available, one per account, to all supporters with 20 or more points, we will ensure that all season ticket holders have access to a cup final ticket, as well as our most regular match-day supporters, home and away.”