Hearts winger Sam Nicholson has revealed he has been been blamed for sickness bug that floored half the squad and forced the postponement of Tuesday’s match at Inverness.
But the 21-year-old insists the virus will not impede the Tynecastle club’s bid to make sure their charge for second is in rude health when they host Aberdeen in tonight’s televised clash.
Robbie Neilson’s side successfully asked the SPFL to call off the clash in the Highlands on Monday after eight players were wiped out by gastroenteritis.
The players and staff only returned to training yesterday after their Riccarton base was shut down for two days to try and contain the contagious virus.
Nicholson reckons he picked up the bug while on Scotland Under-21 duty with four of his club team-mates last week and admits both he and defender Jordan McGhee are being held responsible for passing it on to the rest of the squad.
He said: “I feel better this morning but the rest of the boys are pointing the finger at me and Jordan McGhee. We’re taking it with a pinch of salt.
“I actually shared a room with Craig Storie of Aberdeen when we were away, although he doesn’t seem to have picked anything up – yet.
“We’ve obviously had to make a couple of apologies. It wasn’t meant – but a lot of the boys weren’t too happy with us.
“I feel a lot better, just a bit tired. One of the nights, I was up all night being sick. Thankfully that’s passed.
“I felt okay when I came back from the 21s but felt worse later on Sunday.
“I pulled a sickie on the Monday and Tuesday – because I couldn’t actually move out of my bed, to be honest.
“I didn’t know so many people were ill. I texted our sport scientist (John Hill) because I just wanted to let him know that I wouldn’t be in training the next day because I wasn’t well.
“He texted back to say: ‘I’ve had messages from about ten other players, so you’re not the only one.’ I was surprised by that.
“The club doctor was texting us all giving us advice because we were all so dehydrated.
“He kept telling us how important it was to take in water. But every time I took in water, I was spewing it up! It wasn’t helping much.
“I actually had my first solid meal on Wednesday, the first food I’d eaten since Sunday. I had about five portions.”
Hearts’ preparation for this evening’s match has been far from ideal as they bid to close the 12 point gap on the Dons in second but Nicholson, whose side also have a game in hand, is adamant they can end the week on a high.
He added: “I think adrenaline will get us through. Playing at Tynecastle under the floodlights is something special and that’s sometimes all the motivation you need going into a game.
“It is good that we’ve got a big game. Everybody does that bit extra, even if we are feeling a bit tired or ill.
“I can’t see any of the boys struggling during the game because, at Tynecastle, we always give that bit extra.
“People are saying we can still catch them but this is a massive game if we’re to do that.
No matter what happens against Aberdeen, there’s still so many games after it that we need to win to secure third place.”
He said: “It was a 24, 48 hour thing. We shut the place down and now we’re ready to go.
“All in there was about eight that were definitely out, there were another couple that weren’t feeling great and then there were injuries and suspensions on top of that so there was about 17 in all.
“We went up to Inverness on Monday with six first team players and we had to cancel the 20s game and get them in as well.
“We were up passing the House of Bruar by the time it got called off.”