The presence of Jamie Brandon as Hearts’ representative for the IRN-BRU Cup first round draw this week will be the only official duties the 20-year-old right-back will carry out for the club in the early part of the forthcoming season.
Everything seemed to be coming together for Brandon in 2017. A hamstring tendon that has been grafted on to his knee ligament tells exactly how much came apart for the Whitburn youngster in 2018.
Brandon was one of the exciting crop of budding talents that were given their head by Craig Levein last season. He started a dozen games across the closing months of 2017, most notably when he performed with distinction in the 4-0 thumping of Celtic that ended the Scottish champions’ record unbeaten run the week before Christmas.
The club’s recruitment during the winter break then pushed Brandon down the pecking order before a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL] and a torn meniscus tendon during a development game against Aberdeen in early February pushed him into the operating theatre.
The former Rangers youth still has a further four months of rehab to go, but refuses to be exasperated about what befell him.
“I suppose 2018 will be a write-off for me but I just have to put what’s happened behind me and get back,” he said. “I dealt with it pretty well because I knew there was nothing I could do. I just twisted the wrong way and it went so it’s just about doing my rehab and getting back as quickly as I can.”
Removing a tendon from his hamstring to replace the lost cruciate might sound drastic but it is a standard procedure for this type of injury. Brandon believes it was better than one possible alternative. “They can use an artificial ligament but they thought the tendon graft was the best option for me,” he said. “I was happy to go with what the club advised. They are used to dealing with these situations and will have looked to see what’s best for me.
“It’s just a case now of doing strength work to build up my quad and my leg so that I can start doing running. Once it’s back up to the same level as my right leg I can start to do it. The four-month timescale is to allow the graft to set properly so that it’s strong enough to act like a ligament.”
Brandon said he hasn’t experienced any envy of young team-mates such as Harry Cochrane who has enjoyed another half season of senior development that was denied to Brandon by his sidelining. He hasn’t fretted either as Craig Levein has brought in a whole host of new faces for the forthcoming campaign.
“Lot of boys left last year so the gaffer had a bit of a job to rebuild the squad,” he said. “It is a bit of a different changing room, and different feel about the club. I haven’t really seen many of the players because I’m injured but I hope the new signings can be good for the club. What last season proved, though, was that the gaffer trusts young players. If you are good enough you’ll play and that it’s nothing to do with your age.”
In seeking to take his mind off his long road back to fitness and filling in his days, Brandon’s sporting exertions have been limited to playing on green baize rather than a lush green surface. “I play a lot of pool and going to the gym in my spare time. That’s about it.”