HEARTS midfielder Peter Haring has declared himself fit for the Scottish Cup final as he seeks to follow compatriot Thomas Flogel into Tynecastle folklore.
The 25-year-old has not featured for the Jambos since their 3-0 semi-final triumph over Inverness on April 13 due to a persistent pelvis complaint and was seen as a major doubt for the Hampden showpiece.
However, Haring took part in training at Hearts’ St Andrews base on Tuesday, providing a welcome boost on the same day that Olly Lee was ruled out of the encounter against the Hoops due to knee ligament damage.
Moreover, the Austrian ace is adamant he is ‘fully fit’ to face the Bhoys, despite last kicking a ball in anger six weeks ago.
“I’m fit and ready to go,” said Haring. “I was doing everything possible to play in the Scottish Cup final and I’m really happy that I feel well.
“After the semi-final against Inverness, it was quite sore. It didn’t change for about a week – and I was worried about my place in the final. We tried the injection to see if it would help and thankfully it did.
“I didn’t really know if I would make it or not at that time. I told the gaffer and I had to see day-by-day to see if it would get better.
“You can train as much as you want, it’s always different when you go into a game when you haven’t played for a while. But when you get over the first 20 minutes you’re back to normal again.
“I expect the first 10 minutes to be tough for me as well but as the game goes on I’ll feel comfortable again. I’m not worried about it.”
Should Haring get his hands on the trophy on Saturday, he will join Flogel, a member of Jim Jefferies’ iconic class of ’98, as an Austrian who enjoys legendary status in Gorgie.
As he well knows after meeting the man himself in December.
Flogel may support ‘the wrong team in Vienna’, according to Rapid fan Haring, but they could have something remarkable in common after this weekend.
“When I came here, all the supporters asked me about Thomas Flogel,” smiled Haring. “Even when I told my family I had the opportunity to play for Hearts, my dad said: ‘Who was the Austrian guy that played for Hearts?’ He looked it up and it was Flogel.
“He was playing for the wrong team in Vienna but I remember him playing for the national team and was quite a big, important player.
“I met him in December in Edinburgh and we had a chat. I didn’t know him personally before meeting him but it was good to talk about what he’s doing, what I’m doing and how I liked the city.
“He gave some tips on where to go, about Scottish people and everything about the club as well.
“Everyone talks about Thomas because he won that trophy with Hearts. It would be amazing to do it myself.”
As well as words of inspiration from Flogel, Haring has been roused by the pictures and videos of the scenes when Hearts stunned a star-studded Rangers side 2-1 at Celtic Park.
“I think I’ve seen every picture from the final in 1998 – not just now, but all year long,” continued Haring, who will be roared on by 13 members of his family at the national stadium.
“It’s some extra motivation when you see what happens when you win. It would be the best feeling ever.”
Saturday’s showpiece will represent the culmination of a circuitous journey for Haring, from plumbing the depths of the Austrian fifth tier after being released by Rapid Vienna to a maiden cup final against all-conquering Celtic.
“I played for the academy team in my village when I was growing up and went to Rapid Vienna,” recalled Haring, who joined Hearts from SV Ried in the second tier in his homeland last summer. “But I left there when I was 14.
“There was a moment when I was not 100 per cent professional any more but I always enjoyed football. I played in the fourth and fifth Austrian leagues [with ASV Siegendorf, SV Schattendorf, ASK Baumgarten].
“I was going to school and living at home at the time – but I have some good parents who supported me in every way they could. I had time off during the summer I did some student jobs.
“When I returned to Rapid Vienna in 2012, I enjoyed it even more. But this will be the biggest game of my career.
“I’ve never been to a final before. I had never played in a semi-final before I came to Hearts so will be a very special day.”