Hearts' Michael Smith reveals he was left fearing for his career after trampoline park trip

Michael Smith has bounced back from an agonising family trip to a trampoline park that left him questioning whether he would ever play football again.

And now, three months on, the Hearts defender is hoping that he and his team-mates will be jumping for joy when the final whistle sounds at Hampden next weekend.

Out with a bothersome back injury since mid-February, the 33-year-old Northern Irishman returned to action for the last 15 minutes of Wednesday night’s defeat to Motherwell as manager Robbie Neilson continued to piece his squad back together ahead of the Scottish Cup final.

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"It was a disappointing result, but I am glad I got some minutes. I think by the final we should all be fit, apart from Beni,” said Smith.

Michael Smith made his first Hearts appearance since February against Motherwell.

"It's been tough. It was a weird injury because I couldn't do anything about it in the gym, it was just about trying to recover. I finally got the green light from the specialist to start playing again so that was nice. I can now look forward to the final.”

There was a time when the prospect of sitting out the Glasgow showcase against Rangers was the least of his worries, though, as he was forced to confront the possibility that his playing career might have come to a premature end.

“Yeah, I had doubts beyond that, I thought maybe I might not even play again,” the Northern Ireland internationalist revealed.

“That was the first question I asked [the specialist] as soon as he rang me, but he reassured me that I would be able to get back to playing which made me a lot happier.

"It was a frustrating injury. I trained on a Friday and went to take my son to a trampoline park. I tried to stand up afterwards but my legs were just in agony.

“I wasn't even on the trampoline! But I could hardly walk. My son was like 'what's up with you?' and I said I'm near dead here!”

The right-back, who has earned a reputation as Mr Consistent during his Hearts stay, has been living with back issues for a while but he was finding ways to manage it.

"I've had back problems for about ten years now but eventually it caught up with me and it gave way,” he explained.

"I got a scan and one of the discs had exploded into the nerve canal. It was just a mess in there. I was close to having to have an operation which would have kept me out for longer so thankfully I recovered well.

"But it was hard, I started the season so well and then you get a bad injury like that. Fair play to the boys because they really continued their form. I was delighted for them."

The initial period on the sidelines was a lonely time, but he has had plenty of company of late. "It was busy, but we are almost all back now."

Midfielder Beni Baningime is out for the season and the club will have to see how Toby Sibbick recovers after being carted off injured against Motherwell. But Stephen Kingsley, Cammy Devlin and Smith have fought their way back into the team, with John Souttar and Craig Halkett still on course to join them in time for the final.