Hearts fear Steven Naismith’s season is over as Scotland striker is sent to specialist over knee injury

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HEARTS fear Steven Naismith’s season could be over after sending the Scotland international to a specialist to assess his latest injury set-back.

The 32-year-old was withdrawn at half-time of the Jambos’ 2-1 defeat against Celtic last Wednesday after complaining of slight pain, with boss Craig Levein reluctant to take any chances with his attacking talisman.

Naismith rested over the weekend and sat out Hearts’ Scottish Cup draw against Partick Thistle on Monday night in the hope that would solve the problem.

However, the issue has proved more severe that first thought and he has been ordered to return south of the border for a thorough scan to diagnose the full extent of the injury.

Following their own tests, it is understood that Hearts’ medical staff are braced for bad news, with cartilage damage expected to rule Naismith out for several weeks.

He would then face a race against time to play any part in the run-in for the Jambos.

It will be up to Naismith and his parent club, Norwich City, to decide whether immediate surgery is required, which could further extend his absence.

Levein confirmed last week that the former Rangers and Everton attacker would need to go under the knife for a tidy-up procedure at the end of the current campaign, regardless, and this may be seen as an opportunity to accelerate that process.

It is the second knee injury to befall Naismith this term. He missed two months due to a cartilage tear sustained in October’s Betfred Cup semi-final defeat against Celtic. Without their influential forward, Hearts went on to win just one of their next nine fixtures.

The news is also a potential hammer-blow for Scotland ahead of this month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino. Naismith, capped 49 times, regained his international place following his sensational start to the season and found the net against Albania and Portugal.

However, Alex McLeish will now be forced to rely on other attacking options.

Nevertheless, Hearts are unlikely to be put off their desire to snap up Naismith on a permanent deal when his lucrative contract at Norwich expires this summer.

 
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