Hearts manager Craig Levein insists his team still have a lot to look forward to despite being thrashed 5-0 by Premiership title rivals Celtic.
Levein is thrilled the Tynecastle outfit continue to set the pace at the summit following a series of debilitating injury set-backs that has led to their lead being cut to just one point by the reigning champions.
Hearts went into the Celtic game without long-term absentees Christophe Berra, John Souttar, Steven Naismith and Uche Ikpeazu.
Captain Berra is targeting a December return while Steven Naismith could also make his comeback next month after sustaining a knee injury in the recent Betfred Cup semi-final loss to the Hoops, who have a game in hand in the league.
Both Souttar and Ikpeazu are likely to be available after the January shutdown and Levein’s squad will also be bolstered by Teplice striker David Vanacek, who signed a pre-contract during the summer, at the turn of the year.
And former Scotland manager Levein insists Hearts have to look at the positives.
Levein said: “I am thrilled with where we are, considering the problems we’ve had and still have. If we can get through to the winter break still at the top of the league I would be absolutely thrilled.
“I’ve been pleased with their effort up until now, of course we have loads of good players missing and I’m really looking forward to getting the boys back on the field again.
“There is a lot to look forward to, they’ve been great up until now.
“And we get a lot of players back, starting in December – and in January we’ll have another four or five injuries that will clear up and we’ll get David Vanecek in so we’ll have much more strength and depth come the winter break when we start back again.
“I’m very much looking forward to that.”
Levein apologised to both the players and supporters following the heavy defeat at Celtic after admitting he got his tactics wrong in a first half that saw the hosts canter to a 3-0 lead.
The Hearts boss feared his team would be feeling the effects of five games in 15 days and told his players to sit deep.
However, Levein the squad will have the chance to recharge their batteries ahead of Saturday’s visit of Kilmarnock.
He added: “I’ve given them a couple of day off just to recuperate and we’ll get going again on Tuesday and look forward to playing Kilmarnock at the weekend.
“I feel I’ve learned a lot about the players in the first 12 games, I’ve learned to trust them a bit more, maybe, after Saturday.”