Hearts striker Steven Naismith has handed manager Daniel Stendel a much needed injury boost after returning to training.
The Scotland international missed the final two games of the year after sustaining what was described as a back-related issue in the December 21 loss at Hamilton.
However, the former Everton and Rangers forward has resumed training with the rest of the first team squad at the club’s Oriam training base and it set to be in contention for next weekend’s Scottish Cup visit of Airdrie.
New manager Stendel has shown his ruthless side since the turn of the year after telling captain Christophe Berra, Jake Mulraney and Craig Wighton they have no future at Tynecastle, while experienced Republic of Ireland international Glenn Whelan had his contract terminated.
However, the German has previously expressed his admiration of Naismith.
Speaking recently Stendel, who is also hoping defender John Souttar (ankle) and midfielder Peter Haring (groin) will be able to return to first team action in the not so distant future, said: “I can feel he can help our team so much – not only on the pitch but also next to the pitch.
“When I watched the games that he played last year, I can see he is not the youngest player in our squad, but he is the player with the most experience.
“Especially in offence, he has a really good quality that will help us create more chances than we have in the last games.”
Naismith, however, has not had his injury problems to seek.
The 33-year-old underwent two knee operations last season although still managed to play 31 games and score 16 goals for club and country.
A series of niggling problems have restricted Naismith to only six league starts in a total of nine outings this season.
A sustained run of games for Hearts would also be welcomed by Scotland manager Steve Clarke ahead of the March 26 Euro 2020 play-off semi-final clash with Israel at Hampden.