AS he contemplates tomorrow’s League Cup final, Hearts full-back Jamie Hamill could be forgiven for feeling like a shackled prisoner who can see a banquet just out of reach.
Had the weather been a little better this month, or had his knee injury healed marginally more quickly, Hamill might now be looking forward to a place in caretaker manager Gary Locke’s squad for the showdown with St Mirren. Instead, knowing he is probably just one practice game away from a return to first-team action, he is resigned to regarding tomorrow’s match as a case of so near and yet so far.
It is an especially frustrating situation for Hamill, as this will be the second consecutive final he has missed because of his cruciate damage. After playing in a couple of earlier rounds, he also missed out on last season’s historic Scottish Cup final win over Hibernian.
So far, then, the closest he has come to being involved was also against Hibs, when he warmed up on the pitch at Easter Road with the substitutes before last weekend’s Edinburgh derby.
“The cup final has probably come a bit too soon,” Hamill accepted. “But I was down on the pitch doing the warm-up, so I’m actually not that far away. All I need is a wee under-20 game or something and then I will hopefully be back in the first team.
“I’m a week away, basically, from being back in. There was supposed to be a game in the under-20s this week, Lockey [manager Gary Locke] was trying to get me involved, but the weather has affected that, so it isn’t meant to be. I don’t think I’m going to be involved this weekend, but I’ll be there, supporting the boys.
“Yes, it is difficult to take. But what can you do? You just have to get on with it. No-one is going to sit and feel sorry for me. I need to crack on with it.”
Hamill will be very much involved with the squad in the build-up to kick-off, but he knows that will be only partial compensation for missing out on the game itself. Similarly, while he celebrated with his team-mates after the win over Hibs, he was well aware he had missed out on a match whose participants have all become Hearts legends.
“It’s in the history books, isn’t it, the biggest Edinburgh derby ever, and it does hurt not to be involved. But I was happy for the boys and we had a good party after it for a couple of days. Hopefully we can take the last cup final, doing so well at Hampden, into Sunday’s game and get a result on the day.”