A weaker man may have crumbled but Marcus Godinho has proved that he has the mental resolve needed to make it in the game.
Blighted by injuries since joining Hearts in 2016, he was on the brink of breaking into the team under Robbie Neilson when a meniscus tear sidelined him for eight weeks. Just as he was regaining fitness, he tore his anterior cartilage. “That injury put me out for a year and I was on crutches for ten weeks,” he said. “It was really, really tough. Mentally, I had a hard time. I was over here without any family or support, but I managed to get through it.”
The young Canadian, who hopes to help Hearts maintain their unbeaten home run against Aberdeen today, battled back with the help of fellow full-back Callum Paterson. He said that seeing the Scotland international cope with his own serious knee injury before moving to Cardiff fuelled his own determination and Godinho was rewarded with his long-awaited first-team debut last month.
“He is a massive inspiration. I absolutely love the guy, he is brilliant on and off the pitch,” Godinho said of Paterson. “To see him doing so well gives me the belief that I can do the same, especially as someone who came through the ranks at Hearts and endured so many injuries as well. If he can do it, then I believe I can as well. He’s hilarious, loud but really caring, too. He used to pick me up every morning for training when I was on crutches just so that I wouldn’t need to take the bus, which was a really nice gesture.”
Others have helped him, but the 20-year-old has played his own part in forcing his way into Craig Levein’s plans.
“In August last year I went out to Berwick [on loan]. It was tough, a different style and I think it was beneficial. I bulked up a bit and got used to the strength and physicality needed, and how direct the league was. I came back to Hearts in January feeling good. We went to Spain during the break, and I was still having some problems with my knee, but when we came back I got a few 20s games under my belt and feel like I really started to excel and got my opportunity in the first-team.”
Aberdeen, meanwhile, will look to maintain the form which saw them leapfrog Rangers into second place with a midweek win at Motherwell. It was their third win in a row and manager Derek McInnes is keen to keep up the good work at Tynecastle.
“The objective for us is to go down there and try and keep building on the form that we’re in at the minute to try and get another strong performance that gives us a chance to win the game,” he said.
Niall McGinn returns following a groin injury.