BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CALLUM PATERSON faces 10 months on the sidelines after it was confirmed that the Hearts talisman has suffered serious knee ligament damage.
The Scotland full-back was taken from the field on a stretcher after just 15 minutes of the Jambos’ 4-0 win against Kilmarnock on Tuesday evening following a challenge with Nathan Tyson.
And his worst fears were realised yesterday when it was confirmed that Paterson has ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments and medial ligaments.
Hearts head coach Ian Cathro said: “It’s a bad one for Callum and everyone here is gutted for him.
“There was real concern for him and unfortunately that concern has been compounded with the news that he could be out for up to 10 months.
“Callum’s a top class player and we’ll miss him in the first-team, but we now have to look to those within the squad to step up and fill the void. We’ll help Callum as much as we can though this difficult time.”
The cruel blow leaves Paterson’s future up in the air. His current contract expires in the summer and it was fully expected that he would either leave the club in a £1 million deal in January or exit for a compensation settlement in the close season.
It now remains to be seen whether Paterson’s reconsiders signing an extension with Hearts, ensuring he can carry out his rehabilitation and comeback in familiar surroundings, or hope that one of his English suitors are still willing to snap him up despite being injured.
Cathro admits the potential departure of Paterson next month was something Hearts had contingency plans to combat, albeit he never imagined he would be without the talisman for this reason.
Cathro continued: “[Full-back] was always going to be an area we were looking at. Nothing has changed in that sense but, obviously, this isn’t a situation any of us would have liked.
“Callum has developed into somebody who is at a point in his life where he is able to put his qualities into the game. He’s one of the guys who can go and directly influence the game.”
In the meantime, the onus is likely to fall on young Liam Smith to fill the substantial boots of Paterson, having replaced him as a substitute in the win over Killie.
“Liam is not a player who should be underestimated,” said Cathro of the Scotland under-21 international. “I think he’s a bit stronger in his mind than what can appear at times. He’s managed to give another little bit of evidence of that on Tuesday night against Kilmarnock, which is pleasing.
“He has already shown me he can live with those things so he will grow and improve and be supported. We’ll do the right things by him to help him develop.”