BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
DON COWIE admits being stricken on the sidelines has been torture – but even that pales in comparison to the agony of Prince Buaben’s music collection.
The 34-year-old is set to make his long-awaited return to action for the Jambos against Kilmarnock tomorrow, having missed the last six weeks – barring an ill-advised 45-minute outing at Ross County – with a hamstring complaint.
Cowie’s comeback is blessed relief to manager Craig Levein, who has seen his midfield options decimated in recent weeks, with Jamie Walker the latest name to be scrawled on the injury list after he was ruled out for up to a month due to a hamstring strain.
While he would much rather they were on the pitch, being surrounded by a wealth of midfield talent in the gym was a perverse boost for Cowie and has assured him that the capital club will have plenty of options when the walking wounded return.
Buaben’s efforts as a DJ in the gym, however, proved less heartening.
“Prince definitely isn’t the one who keeps the morale up – his music is absolutely terrible,” smiled Cowie. “That was an eye-opener for me. I couldn’t even describe it, I’ve never heard anything like it. It just goes from one extreme to another with every song.
“No, when you are injured, it is difficult. It’s the worst thing about being a footballer, so it is good to have some other people just to help you through the day at the gym and things like that.
“The annoying thing is that we have had so many injured in a similar position, but there’s nothing you can do about that, there’s no point feeling sorry for yourself. You just need to get on with.
“And when I looked around and saw the players in there with me, it just hit home what a good core we have.
“You see Arnaud [Djoum], Malo [Martin], Prince [Buaben], Connor [Randall], Aaron [Hughes] and Ash [Smith-Brown], and when we are all fit at the same time, giving the manager options, then that can only make us stronger. The sooner we all get back, the better.”
In his absence, Cowie has been buoyed by the emergence of what he hopes is another golden generation of Hearts teens.
Harry Cochrane, Euan Henderson, Jamie Brandon and Lewis Moore have all been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks, putting Cowie in mind of the emergence of Jamie Walker, Sam Nicholson, Jack Hamilton and Callum Paterson.
“Watching the young boys coming in has helped, seeing how much they are improving,” Cowie continued. “Ideally you would want to be in there experiencing it with them, helping them along the way, but it has been great.
“They’re great players with real ability and it’s just dealing with these experiences and the atmosphere that they’re not used to. It’s been great to watch them and see how they’ve acquitted themselves. The club’s in a really good place.
“I know the club is really excited. Three or four years ago, you had the likes of Walker, Nicholson, Paterson coming through and it seems to be happening again.”
Prime among the prospects is Cochrane and he is already seeking to do his part in moulding the 16-year-old playmaker into a star of the future.
“Sometimes the manager, because of his age, he’s been a bit reluctant to start Harry – and it’s testament to Harry that the manager just can’t leave him out.
“I was nowhere near a first team when I was 16! For him to be playing for a team like Hearts at that age is incredible.
“And when I was 16 I probably wouldn’t even make eye contact with a first team player, whereas Harry’s quite happy engaging in conversation and starting conversations, so it’s great to see. It’s not in an arrogant way – he’s a really likeable person and he’s got a big future in the game.”