First Team

Craig to utilise squad depth

18th October 2018

Craig Levein believes his summer recruitment will see Hearts through a potentially tricky spell after John Souttar and Uche Ikpeazu were both ruled out for five months.

John tore the lining of his hip while on Scotland duty last week, while the cause of a troublesome foot injury for Uche has finally been identified.

Both will require surgery, resulting in lengthy spells on the sidelines, and although Craig admits it’s a blow to lose the pair, he will put faith in his squad and insists those called upon will be able to step up to the challenge.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference this morning, he said: “John will be out for five or six months by the looks of things. He landed awkwardly and tore the lining of his hip (playing for Scotland), which is a blow.

“While we’re on it, Uche will be out for five months as well, by the looks of things. This problem that he’s had with his foot, we’ve finally managed to get to the bottom of it. It’s a really kind of obscure problem, which needs an operation. That’s the unfortunate side, that John and Uche will be missing for a period of time.

“t’s frustrating but it’s just normal. One of the things this business has taught me is to expect the worst. When you’re flying there’s always problems.

“The good thing is that our recruitment in the summer was good and we’ve got adequate replacements. We’ve got Sean Clare, who is nearly ready to play. He’ll be involved at some point on Saturday. Marcus Godinho is back from his long-term injury so that’s positive news. We also have David Vanecek joining us in January so there are plenty of positives as well.

“Jimmy Dunne’s done a great job. It was great to see him get called up to the Republic of Ireland U21s. He’s done a good job for us. We’ve got Clevid Dikamona and Aaron Hughes.

“We’re getting a little bit thin on the ground at the back, and to lose John and Christophe isn’t an ideal situation but sometimes its quite interesting being a manager and having deal with stuff like that.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and one of the reasons why we tried to strengthen the group over the summer was just in case. We’ve probably got a slightly bigger squad than we had last season with a little bit more experience.

“From my point of view we’ve got a lot of good players waiting in the wings patiently to get an opportunity to play. Harry Cochrane’s hardly kicked a ball this season through injury; he’s back. Young Anthony McDonald, who we used quite a lot last season, he’s not played. So we’ve got the use of him as well.

“I feel more for the two players than I do for myself and the group. We can manage.”

Craig’s press conference is available to watch in full on HeartsTV