BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS have been dealt yet another injury blow after Jamie Walker was ruled out for up to a month with a hamstring strain.
The 24-year-old limped off after 52 minutes of the Jambos’ 3-1 defeat against Rangers on Saturday, with manager Craig Levein citing it as a pivotal moment in the contest.
There were initial concerns that Walker may have suffered a muscle tear which could have seen him out of action until the turn of the year, however the gifted playmaker received the results of a scan yesterday and the damage was less severe than first feared.
He is expected to be sidelined for between three and four weeks, with a return to the squad for their first match back at Tynecastle, against Partick Thistle on November 19, considered the very best-case scenario.
The absence of Walker, who was finally beginning to recapture the form which prompted Rangers to make three separate bids for his services during the summer, further weakens Hearts’ paper-thin midfield, which has been decimated by injury.
Don Cowie, Prince Buaben, Malaury Martin and Arnaud Djoum – who has resumed running following knee ligament damage but will not feature until after the international hiatus – have all been struck down in recent weeks, leaving Levein fielding teenagers Harry Cochrane and Euan Henderson.
It is understood Cowie underwent a light session at their Riccarton base on Tuesday but faces a race against time to be in contention for Sunday’s visit of Kilmarnock.
Meanwhile, veteran defender Aaron Hughes, who has been called up by Northern Ireland for their upcoming World Cup qualification playoff against Switzerland, has returned to training as he seeks to prove his fitness for club and country.
Sunday could see the 108-times capped 37-year-old make his first appearance for the Jambos since September 30 due to a calf complaint, before reporting for international duty, where he will become the most capped British defender of all time if he appears in either leg against the Swiss.