HEARTS playmaker Jamie Walker admits he was oblivious to the severity of his injury against Motherwell – after attempting to play on with a broken ankle.
The 26-year-old suffered a fractured fibula in last Friday night’s 2-1 Betfred Cup win, paying a heavy price for a last-ditch challenge on Steelmen star Liam Donnelly.
However, Walker has revealed that he initially felt he could run the knock off and, following some treatment on the Fir Park turf from Jambos physio Karen Gibson, carried on for a short period before being forced off.
Walker remained blissfully unaware of the extent of the damage when he returned home following the fixture, with the devastating news only emerging following a scan over the weekend.
Walker, who only returned to his boyhood club from Wigan over the summer, will now face around three months on the sidelines – just as he was beginning to rediscover his form and fitness in maroon once more.
He said: “I was really gutted. I had played a few 90 minutes in a row and felt like I was starting to get my fitness back, I had scored a couple of goals. But there’s nothing I can do about it now.
“There are great medical staff here and hopefully they can get me back fit as quickly as possible.
“I was just tracking back and the Motherwell player, [Liam] Donnelly, went to have a strike and I managed to nick the ball away in front of him. He has followed through on the back of my ankle.
“I didn’t think it was that bad at the time. However, the scans have shown that I’ve fractured my fibula. The game was still in the first half, it was 0-0, and I wanted to continue and see how it was but I couldn’t run it off.
“I’m disappointed. You don’t want to get injured, especially so early on in the season, but it has happened and I’m looking forward to starting the rehab and getting back playing.”
Walker is no stranger to injury heartbreak, having missed the second half of last season at Wigan following serious knee surgery.
He also endured spells on the sidelines during his first stint at Hearts due to hamstring and metatarsal issues.
And he confesses to a sense of relief that he does not need to go under the knife, as he vowed to draw on his previous experience of recovering from setbacks.
Walker continued: “I’m on the crutches and [moon] boot on for a couple of weeks then I can start to do some upper body work to keep my fitness up the best I can. The physios will set me up with a programme and I’ll do some work with Tom [Taylor, fitness coach].
“I’m relieved I didn’t need an operation. Every time you get injured, that’s the worry. Then it stops being just about the injury – it becomes about the wound and procedure and things.
“Thankfully, I can just let this heal itself and hopefully it’s not too long. When I told my family, they mentioned that I’d been in this situation before and I know how to deal with it – I’m older and mentally stronger.”
Walker, who has notched two goals in seven games this term, will now be restricted to a watching brief as Hearts seek to build on their Betfred Cup triumph over Motherwell and claim their first league win of the campaign against Celtic on Sunday.
And he has no doubt the Jambos can shine in his absence.
Walker told Hearts TV: “We had a few sticky results to start the season but that was a great victory in the cup and the boys are desperate to get their first win in the league.
“The gaffer has brought in some good signings. The boys that we have here are mentally strong and if we get a few decent results in the coming games then we could really kick on.”