HEARTS star Peter Haring has expressed his delight after returning to action following 16 months on the sidelines – even if his touch was understandably rusty.
The powerful midfielder was given a cathartic cameo against Falkirk on Tuesday, entering the fray for the final 15 minutes as the Jambos ran out 3-0 winners at the Oriam Performance Centre.
Haring, 27, has endured a tortuous spell on the sidelines with pelvis and groin issues and, prior to Tuesday’s comeback, had not pulled on a maroon jersey since the Scottish Cup final defeat against Celtic in May 2019.
There were even suggestions that Haring may never play again if doctors could not get to the bottom of his issues.
However, the Austrian underwent surgery in his homeland during the summer – resulting in ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for the player – and has followed a thorough, careful rehabilitation programme at Hearts.
And he finally feels ready to kickstart his career in Gorgie, with another friendly outing against Partick Thistle on Saturday likely.
“It’s been a wee while since I’ve worn a Hearts jersey, so I’m delighted,” beamed Haring. “I didn’t play for too long but I felt decent and I can’t complain.
“My touch was average, I would say! But my body feels good, so I feel happy.
“The final decision about me playing was probably made on Monday but the gaffer spoke with me at the start of last week to ask what I thought about getting a few minutes against Falkirk.
“I was happy with that, as long as everything went well in training. I felt good at the end of last week and I couldn’t wait.
“I was feeling there was light at the end of the tunnel for a while because my body just started feeling different. I’m just happy to get my first minutes after such a long time and I can’t wait for more to come.
“As far as I know, I’ll get a few more minutes against Partick on Saturday at Tynie. That will be another good moment, to play at Tynecastle again.”
Scotland striker Steven Naismith also made his long-awaited return to action, cruising through the final 30 minutes against the Bairns with no ill-effects.
The 34-year-old has spent recent weeks recovering from a persistent calf strain but is now ready to step up his comeback bid and will undertake an uninterrupted week of full-contact training from next Monday.
Naismith aims to be available for Hearts’ Betfred Cup opener against Inverness on October 6.
It remains to be seen whether that timeline tempts national boss Steve Clarke to include him for the European Championship play-off against Israel on October 8.
Hearts saw off Falkirk thanks to goals from Liam Boyce, Jamie Walker and a Craig Wighton penalty.