HEARTS striker Conor Washington admits he endured a debut season to forget at Tynecastle as he opened up on his injury hell.
Washington, 28, joined the Jambos on a two-year deal amid much fanfare last summer given his impressive pedigree, including stints at Sheffield United, QPR and 21 caps for Northern Ireland.
However, he notched just four goals in 22 appearances following persistent fitness issues.
Washington concedes that he struggled to get up to speed in time for the July start to the Betfred Cup after skipping pre-season and, just as he was finding his feet, he suffered gruesome hamstring damage which sidelined him for close to four months.
It was the first major injury he had ever picked up and meant he was unable to help Hearts arrest their side towards the foot of the Premiership.
He acknowledged: “I haven’t been able to give a good account of myself over the last 12 months.
“I moved up to Scotland and, with the Betfred Cup starting so early, I hadn’t had a pre-season or anything like that. I only signed about two weeks before my first game against Dundee United.
“I went away on international duty [in September], did well for Northern Ireland and then came back to Hearts. I came on against Motherwell, had a good 15 minutes and then just had a freak injury.
“Touch wood, I have never really been injured and I’d put that down to hard work and dedication in the gym – and a little bit down to being the stiffest man alive, so I don’t get into positions to get injured!
“But I reached for a ball and felt something in my hamstring that I hadn’t felt before in any muscle. I had managed to rip the tendon off the muscle. That kept me out for four months.”
Washington has revealed that he almost PASSED OUT after returning to action following his injury layoff.
With no experience of a lengthy spell on the sidelines, he tried to implement his hard running, all-action style when climbed from the bench to make his comeback against Aberdeen on December 29 – and soon ran out of gas.
And a maddening campaign was capped when football was halted on March 13 due to the Covid-19 outbreak, with Washington coming off the back of goals against Hibs and Motherwell, and finally starting to gather momentum.
He continued: “When I came back against Aberdeen, I felt ready to play – but I almost passed out after six minutes of trying to run around!
“Because I had never come back from an injury, I had no frame of reference for what to expect and didn’t know how to pace myself.
“But I managed to score against Hibs and score against Motherwell in consecutive games – then we had the shut-down.”
Meanwhile, Washington, speaking to AM Soccer Club, lavished praise on Hearts supporters for sticking by the faltering Jambos during a largely miserable campaign in Gorgie.
He added: “The fans and the stadium are probably the best things about the club, and that’s not even just a cliche.
“I was surprised at how big and grand the stadium was when I first joined and, even when we have been doing terribly, the atmosphere has still been good – which speaks volumes.”