John Souttar is making slow progress in his bid to recover from injury and is unlikely to play in either of Hearts’ next two matches.
Fellow defender Michael Smith is in a similar position. The bad news is offset by the fact Steven Naismith will definitely return to the team against Hamilton Accies at Tynecastle today, while new signing Ryotaro Meshino could be pitched straight in for his debut after arriving yesterday on a season-long loan from Manchester City.
Souttar has been out since suffering an ankle injury in the Premiership opener four weeks ago and manager Craig Levein had hoped to have him back by now, but the defender’s problem was showing no sign of abating so he was sent to London this week to see a specialist.
Realistically, it looks like he is battling to be ready for the Edinburgh derby at Easter Road on September 22.
“John wasn’t progressing as well as we’d hoped so he went down to London yesterday (Thursday),” said Levein. “The specialist gave him an injection which is a bit of steroid and painkiller so he’s in a moonboot for five days and after that we’ll progress it from there.
“They’re hopeful that they’ve found the problem and the steroid will calm the whole thing down. It’s disappointing because I was hoping to have him back for this weekend but this will put him back a couple of weeks. He might make the Motherwell game (two weeks today) but that might be being hopeful.”
Full-back Smith is also set to miss the next two games, with the hamstring injury that forced him off at Celtic Park on Sunday still bothering him. He will probably have to withdraw from the Northern Ireland squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying double-header against Luxembourg and Germany.
“Michael’s toiling a bit with his hamstring,” said Levein. “It hasn’t progressed as we’d hoped. I didn’t think he’d make this game but I thought he’d definitely be available for the Motherwell game in a couple of weeks’ time. The way things are going, though, he’s not progressing as quickly as I would have hoped. He’s not even been outside yet.
“Michael’s had quite a few muscle injuries so he’s quite good at recognising where he is in his recovery. He wasn’t particularly positive today. He’s definitely out of the Hamilton game and I think he’ll miss the Motherwell game as well.”
Levein confirmed that talisman Naismith will return to the side after sitting out the past two and a half matches with a tight hamstring. “Naisy’s fine - he’s trained all week and he’ll play,” said the manager.
Levein has no worries about pitching new Japanese midfielder Meshino into his side despite the fact he only arrived yesterday following a long journey from Osaka. The 21-year-old trained with his new team-mates at Tynecastle yesterday and will be in the squad today. “He slept all the way to London, he’s trained and he says he’s in good condition and feels good,” said Levein.