CRAIG LEVEIN admits the news that Jake Mulraney will miss six weeks of action due to ankle ligament damage has left him ‘elated’ after initially fearing the winger would be consigned to several months on the sidelines.
The Hearts boss feared the worst when the Irishman limped off during the Jambos’ 1-1 draw against Rangers last Sunday sporting immediate swelling, with Levein positing that he may have sustained a fracture.
However, a scan on Tuesday brought comparatively good news and Mulraney will target a return to action in the early part of December.
As a consequence, Levein’s overriding emotion on Thursday was one of relief that another of his key men was not facing several months out, as the likes of Steven Naismith, John Souttar, Michael Smith, Conor Washington and Peter Haring have all endured since the tail end of last year.
“Jake will be missing a month to six weeks,” said Levein. “I was actually elated with that.
“That was bonus. It wasn’t three months. I always expect the worst now, but it’s not as bad as we feared – and I think that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that with any of the injuries.
“However, we are down to the bare bones. We have a big squad but nine of them are injured.
“When I looked at the big squad at the start of the season, I felt we would be fine for any kind of examination but looking at the numbers – even selecting a team for Saturday – things are looking a bit threadbare.
“Things like these don’t go on indefinitely. It’s a really difficult period for everybody to fight their way through just now. Most importantly, I can’t start to feel sorry for myself.”
Aidy White will also miss Saturday’s trip to face Livingston as Hearts follow stringent concussion protocols. The former Barnsley and Leeds United defender had to be replaced against Rangers after being struck in the face by the ball, leaving him with a bloodied face and mouth.
Meanwhile, Levein has revealed that midfielder Haring has returned to Austria to liaise with a local specialist as he continues his road to full fitness.
He was slated to return to action against the Gers but the decision was made not to risk him after Haring complained of slight discomfort ahead of the fixture, with Hearts erring on the side of caution given he has struggled with groin and pelvis issues through much of 2019.
“Peter has been training but is heading back to Austria to see his man,” explained Levein. “He felt a little bit of pain and, because of that I have allowed him to go back for a few days just to get that looked at.
“Peter is actually much further down the road than he was in the summer. He has been training but there is this one thing: when he strikes the ball he feels a sharp pain. We are hopefully that they can magic that away over the next few days!”
Levein added: “Peter is frustrated. That is why I’m letting him go back to Austria because he will get some comfort from being back in his own environment and the guy speaks the same language and that also brings a degree of comfort.”
Jamie Walker and Steven Naismith are also back in training but will not be considered for this weekend’s outing at Livi, joining White, Haring, Washington, Mulraney, Ben Garuccio, Loic Damour, Craig Halkett in the stands.