BY DARREN JOHNSTONE @CCP_Sport
Hearts captain Alim Ozturk admits risking his long-term health was ‘stupid’ after revealing how he played through the pain barrier to help Robbie Neilson’s side clinch last season’s Championship title.
Ozturk is hoping to return to action against St Johnstone for the first time since September on Saturday having undergone two hernia operations since May.
And the 23-year-old has told how he sacrificed himself for the team during the second half of last season after taking painkillers to ease the pain of an injury that first started to trouble him at the turn of the year.
At the time, Ozturk was only too happy to put Hearts first but looking back, the former Trabzonspor centre-half admits he would not do it again.
To make matters worse, the Dutch-born payer was forced to undergo surgery for a second time in October after the first procedure did not work.
Ozturk said: “I had the pain since January, February and I played with painkillers and injections to win the league.
“That was the most important thing and we did it as well.
“At that time you want to play, it was maybe stupid but the feeling was that I had to do it. Now after you could say it’s stupid. It’s a good lesson for me as well.
“When I took the painkillers it was all right when I played the games, but two days after it was so painful. I trained without the injection and then for the game I took painkillers.
“I’ve got experience of this now and I’m not going to do it again. If I do this, I’m not sure how long I will play.
“Of course you think about what you will be like when you get older and I’m just 23-years-old.
“I feel good now so it was a good lesson for me.”
Ozturk’s bid to make a speedy recovery from the first surgery was then scuppered after he continued to feel pain.
He added: “It has taken me longer than I thought it would to get back.
“I came back in pre-season and I felt okay. The first few weeks were all right. I had no pain but after four, five weeks it was coming again.
“The physios and everyone said that was normal because I had had surgery. I thought, ‘okay’ but then every week it got worse.
“I had too much pain and I had another surgery in October.
“I went back to Holland to do my recovery, it was so annoying that I couldn’t play and being with family makes it a bit easier.
“I went everyday to the physio in Amsterdam, they helped me a lot.
“I got the first surgery and felt more pain so I thought I would try something else.”
After being an unused substitute in last weekend’s defeat at Aberdeen, Ozturk scored two free-kicks in Wednesday’s 90 minute run out for the Under-20s in their victory over the Dons.
And despite stand-in captain Blazej Augustyn forming a good partnership with Igor Rossi in defence, Ozturk reckons reclaiming his place in the side will not be a problem.
He added: “I’ve got confidence in myself and I think if I’m 100 per cent fit I’ll come back. I’m going to make it really hard for them.”
*Alim Ozturk was speaking at Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital yesterday as Hearts made their annual visit to hand out presents to the children.