Levein faces further surgery Jefferies hopes Bruno manages to stay out of trouble
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13 Jan 1996
HE WILL not relish the thought, but Craig Levein will be a serious contender for the title as the unluckiest player in the country after the news yesterday that he will need another operation on his injured knee.
The Hearts and Scotland defender has been out since August because of the injury, but had hoped to be back in the Tynecastle team for the second half of the season and then push for a place in the Scotland pool for the European Championship finals in England in June.
However, the progress he has been making has slowed down and he has taken the advice of a specialist, after a consultation yesterday, to have further surgery.
It is a bad setback for the 31-year-old who ``lost'' two years of his career in 1986 after a severe injury to his other knee, when he had two cruciate ligament operations.
``There is no point delaying,'' said Levein, ``and I am going to have it done next week.'' Levein, who will be out for the rest of the season, had hoped to be challenging for the Hearts central defensive positions along with his old ally, Dave McPherson, who has just returned after injury.
Now manager Jim Jefferies will hope that McPherson continues his recovery after having come on for half-an-hour in the 4-0 win over Motherwell on Wednesday, especially as Pasquale Bruno, who has been holding the back four together impressively, if in his own macho way, is verging on a suspension.
The Italian is on 15 points, one short of the punishment threshold, and he will have to be on impeccable behaviour if he is to avoid being despatched to the sidelines.
Hearts, who seemed to be deep in the relegation battle earlier on this season, are now chasing higher things, like a place in Europe.
They are fifth top, and could improve upon that if they can beat Jefferies' old team, Falkirk, at Tynecastle today.
That might not be as straightforward as their remarkably easy win over Motherwell in midweek, as the Brockville side found a bit of form in defeating Partick Thistle comfortably at Firhill.
Manager John Lambie waits for striker Mo Johnston, who has been playing with a hip knock and will be checked in the morning, while new man Andy Gray hopes to be fit after a stomach upset.
``Mo has played through the last two games with the hip problem,'' said Lambie, ``and I feel it has affected his mobility.
He's an important player for us, but I would have to rate his chances only 50-50.'' Kilmarnock striker Colin McKee is fit again after flu forced his absence in the 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers last week and defender Derek Anderson returns after suspension for the visit of Hibs to Rugby Park.
``Hibs have had a mixed season,'' said manager Alex Totten, ``but against us they have played well, winning twice.
We need every point at the moment to keep clear of the relegation struggle.'' In fact, Killie have not beaten the Edinburgh side since they won promotion to the top division in 1993.
They will almost certainly be without Robert Connor, Billy Findlay, and Tom Brown.
Hibs will be without suspended Pat McGinlay but Darren Dods returns after his four-game suspension.
Out injured are Gareth Evans and Mickey Weir.
Motherwell and Partick Thsitle will meet in a bottom-of the-table confrontation at Fir Park which may not be pretty but will be serious.
Motherwell manager Alex McLeish, startled by the ineptitude of his men at Tynecastle, believes there will be a proper reaction today.
``My players must forget all that has gone before.
It's what happens from now on that really matters,'' said McLeish.
``You can be sure we will go out with all guns blazing against Thistle.
I'm looking for a very positive response from the team after the criticism I gave them following the four-goal defeat at Hearts.
``They owe it not only to themselves, but also to the club and the fans.''
Taken from the Herald