Hearts defender John Souttar insists he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon – and is targeting an August comeback.
The 20-year-old suffered the injury in the January 29 defeat at Celtic and was initially warned that he could face up to nine months on the sidelines.
However, Souttar recently travelled to London for a check-up and was encouraged that his surgeon is pleased with the process he is making in his rehabilitation.
Souttar said: “At one point my surgeon told me I could be out for nine months but I was down to see him in London recently and he told me I’m ahead of schedule, I’m walking already without the supportive boot.
“I’ve got a range of moment in it so day by day I’m taking it slowing and working hard to get back.
“I won’t be back by pre-season training but they’re looking at August, hopefully. I’ll have to do my own pre-season, I’m not a big fan of pre-season anyway so that’ll be interesting.”
“It was a tough one to take at the time, a big blow to my season but it’s getting better week by week and I’m feeling positive about it.
Recalling the moment he sustained the injury in the 4-0 defeat at Celtic, Souttar, who has made 25 domestic appearances this season, added: “I’d felt a tiny bit of pain in the match before actually. I didn’t think much of it at the time and my only focus was on the big game against Celtic.
“I never felt any more pain during the match at Celtic Park but then I went up for a header and I felt the top of my Achilles going into my calf and then I knew.
“I tried to stand on it three times and collapsed every time. I remember Don Cowie telling me to calm down and I just remember thinking, ‘that’s easy for you to say pal’.”
Souttar’s performances for Hearts since joining from Dundee United in February 2016 had led to calls for a Scotland call-up.
Team-mates Callum Paterson, who is also currently sidelined with a cruciate knee injury, and Jack Hamilton have already made the step-up, but the defender reckons he still needs to make improvements to his game.
He added: “You never know, I might have been in the squad had I stayed fit. I heard the reports and that but I don’t think I was ready to play.
“If I got called up then brilliant, it would be amazing but I think I’ve got a lot of education to do before I get to that.
“It’s my goal as well so it would be nice to get to that point in my career. I just need to work as hard as I can to get there.”
Souttar, meanwhile, insists he is constantly asking team-mate Aaron Hughes questions as he attempts to take in as much advice as possible from the vastly experienced 37-year-old former Newcastle United and Fulham defender.
He added: “I pick his brans about everything. He’s in my position and he’s had an amazing career. I try not to ask him too many questions at once because I don’t want to overwhelm him but I just try to learn as much as I can off him.
“He tells me about his Newcastle and Fulham days, the managers he’s played under and the tactics he’s been used to.
“You pick up a lot of information.”