Hearts boss looking forward to key player returning

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson admits he is looking forward to having a fully fit John Souttar back in the team.

Souttar was named as an unused substitute in last week’s embarrassing Scottish Cup defeat at Brora Rangers, having been out since February 2020 with two separate ruptured Achilles injuries.

The 24-year-old is expected to return to the squad for Saturday’s Championship clash with Dunfermline and could make his comeback at East End Park.

Hearts defender John Souttar | Hearts news
Souttar has not played since February 2020

The imminent return of the Scotland cap has been the only source of good news for the Tynecastle outfit, with recent defeats to Brora and Queen of the South leading to much criticism and pressure on Neilson.

And Neilson, who recruited Souttar from Dundee United in his first spell in charge in Gorgie, admits having the defender on the verge of a return is a huge boost.

Neilson said: “I knew John was not going to take part last Tuesday (against Brora) but it was to get him in with the group. 

“He’s got great character and leadership and we wanted to phase him in.

“Hopefully we’ll get him back on the bench and start building him up. 

“He will probably be another three of four weeks till he’s back with us in full capacity.

“We’re looking forward to getting him back 100 per cent fit.”

Souttar has already admitted he is feeling the best he has ever felt in his career following his latest spell on the sidelines.

The centre-half has been plagued by injuries after rupturing his Achilles for the first time in January 2017 before then undergoing separate hip and ankle surgeries.

Neilson added: “He’s had a difficult couple of years. I know him really well. 

“I signed him from Dundee United when I was here for the first time. 

“He’s a brilliant character, looks after himself and wants to do well.

“I was so disappointed for him when he broke down again after we came in. 

“He has been a big miss for us this season because of his quality on the ball and leadership.

“He looks really good just now. My concern is trying to push him too quickly because I’m just desperate to get him in the team. We need to make sure he’s ready.”