First Team

Craig: Squad strength will see us through

30th October 2018

Craig Levein insists that the depth of his Hearts squad is strong enough to see them through the tough run of fixtures that awaits the league leaders.

After a semi-final loss to Celtic on Sunday, the Jambos now turn their attentions to Hibs on Wednesday night at Tynecastle, where the men in maroon haven’t lost a derby match in five-and-a-half years.

With a trip to Glasgow to face Celtic on the horizon, the table toppers will be without the services of stand-in captain Steven Naismith who was taken off after only eight minutes of the semi-final.

The manager confirmed that Naisy has torn cartilage in his knee and will require surgery to fix the issue, keeping the league’s top scorer out for 6-8 weeks.

“We had him scanned yesterday,” said Craig at this morning’s pre-match press conference. “It’s a little more awkward than normal [because] he’s a Norwich player. He’s got to go down there and they’re going to assess him as well. It looks like he’s got a little tear in his cartilage which we suspected.

“We’ve had a number of blows in the last three-four weeks, so we’ll just have to cope with this one as well as we’ve done with the other ones. It does leave us a little bit then on the ground up top with Uche being out as well but we’ll get by.”

Sean Clare and Craig Wighton who could see themselves drafted into the starting line-up as the gaffer weighs up his options ahead of Wednesday night’s derby

“We’ve got a number of players, two in particular ­– Craig [Wighton] and Sean Clare, who are getting up to speed now and look like they’ll be able to help us. That opportunity has arisen maybe quicker than I thought it would.

“We’ve got Steven’s problem and Peter’s situation. He was feeling a bit sore after the game so I’m not sure if he’s going to be available or not.

“Normally, I would name the team today and do some work. I’m not going to be able to do that because there’s a few things.

“Clevid is still struggling with his thigh so I don’t really know what the team’s going to be. The likes of Sean and Craig have a good chance of being involved.”

Craig’s pre-match press conference is available to watch in full on HeartsTV by clicking here.