Craig Levein believes Hearts are worthy league leaders after overcoming many hurdles in the early part of the season and hopes the return of several key players from injury can help the Jambos to maintain their position at the table’s summit.
Injuries to Christophe Berra, John Souttar, Uche Ikpeazu and Steven Naismith threatened to derail Hearts’ campaign but they remain at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership, two games past the first round of fixtures.
Craig has focused on staying on top as the men in maroon prepare to host Kilmarnock on Saturday, and thinks the return of those key players will prove to be a massive boost for the club around the busy festive period.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference this morning, he said: “We’ve been in front for a while now and the boys have responded really well to any difficult situations.
“We’ll have more difficult situations, I’m sure, between now and the winter break but the most important game is the one on Saturday.
“You don’t stay at the top of the league for as long as we have without deserving it. We’ve had a lot of things to contend with this season that are out of the ordinary. I’m talking mainly about the injury situation that we’ve had, and yet we’ve still managed to keep ourselves in that position up until now.
“The key for us is to try and stay out in front to a point where we get our main players back and we should get a big boost from that.
“I think we can (stay in the title race), it’s just a matter of hanging in there just now. It’s arguable that we have four or five players missing who would be playing every single week.
“That’s difficult and the boys who have come in and coped well but it’s not the same as having those guys on the field.
“We’re not going to get them all back until we start back again after the winter break but I’m hoping that Christophe Berra is ahead of schedule and Steven Naismith might be ahead of schedule so that they can help us in the last three or four games before we do break up.
“That would be good, but at this moment in time I’m hopeful rather than saying that’s going to happen.”
Craig’s press conference is available to watch in full on HeartsTV by clicking here.