John Souttar insists he always knew he’d be back ahead of schedule after starting Saturday’s Betfred Cup victory over East Fife, five-and-a-half months on from his last first-team outing.
The defender ruptured his Achilles during a league match at Celtic Park in January and has spent the time since nursing himself back to full fitness.
His name was a surprise inclusion in Ian Cathro’s starting line-up at the weekend as the Jambos strolled to a 3-0 win, and the 20-year-old believes his hard work, and that of the people around him at the club, has paid off.
“I always thought I’d be back quicker,” said John. “We’ve got a great medical staff here and a lot of people behind the scenes, my Thai therapist, my family, just everyone helping out.
“I knew I would be back soon but I didn’t think I would be back five-and-a-half months after the op because it’s a massive operation. To come back and feel as good as I did was brilliant.
“I was in the gym every day for five months. I’ve worked as hard as I possibly can every day. I just looked on the injury as a positive to get stronger and more powerful.
“I’ve worked as hard as I possibly can both medically and physically to get back. It helps on the pitch. That was one of the positives when I was injured.
“If you feel sorry for yourself, it is going to affect everything. You need to be mentally strong.
“I’ve gone through a lot of stuff in my career. I’m only 20 and I’ve been through quite a lot that’s going to make me mentally strong. That was another test and I’m back five-and-a-half months after an Achilles rupture.
“What helped me when I was injured was the fact that Hearts believed in me coming back. They paid money for me when not many teams were going to so I’ve got a lot to pay back. Hopefully I paid it back last season and can keep doing the same.”