First team

Onwards and upwards

11 October 2023

Beni Baningime says the Jambos will be raring to go after the international break, with a mouth-watering run of fixtures in the pipeline.


Hearts welcome Celtic to Tynecastle on the 22nd before a trip to Ibrox at the end of the month on league business. Another meeting with Rangers, this time at Hampden in the Viaplay Cup semi-final, will follow after that.


The midfielder knows that big occasions like those are the tests to look forward to and is enjoying being back on the grass after a stop-start beginning to the season since returning from a lengthy ACL lay-off.


“It’s been good. We had a training session just there ahead of a bounce game tomorrow,” he told Hearts TV. “I got a full pre-season but after fifteen months out – it takes some time to get back up to full speed and match sharpness.


“It’s great to be back but you do need to have a bit of patience with yourself. It’s not that you aren’t the same player that you were before but it takes time to grow back that confidence and get into the swing of things before. I’m glad that I’m getting back to myself and I feel great.


“There’s lots to look forward to. Celtic and Rangers in the league and then the semi-finals. Those are big games and they’re the kind of games that if we want to finish third like we did two seasons ago – we need to relish them and look forward to them, not cow away from them.


“Both sides of the Old Firm have good teams but we’re a good team as well, so it’ll be a great challenge but one that we’re all looking forward to.”


The men in maroon have been boosted by the return to training of club captain Craig Gordon over the past few weeks. The skipper has been sidelined since December after suffering a double leg break at Tannadice on Christmas Eve.


Although a large miss, Beni says the support the squad have shown to each other in the face of such trials has brought the dressing room closer together.


“One of the few positives was how much closer I got to all of the boys after that lay-off,” he explained. “That was the best thing about it because no one wants to be out injured. No one wants to be out for fourteen or fifteen months.


“The camaraderie in the dressing and physio rooms was something special. It’ll always be a part of my life and it’s great to see everyone start to get back out there. For example, Craigy was involved in training today and I told him how great it was to see that.


“It’s another milestone, and a fantastic thing to see.”