London Hearts Supporters Club

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George Burley <-auth Paul Kiddie auth-> Neil Doyle
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7 of 008 Deividas Cesnauskis 15 ;Stephen Simmons 26 ;Calum Elliot 70 ;Marius Kizys 74 ;Paul Hartley 85 F A

We're all right behind Graham


HEARTS striker Graham Weir received the keys to the door in Dublin - and unlocked a nightmare.

With the ink barely dry on a new one-year deal, the front man was hoping to celebrate his 21st birthday in style in the Irish capital after earning a place in George Burley's first line-up for the pre-season friendly against St Patrick's Athletic.

Desperate to impress his new manager at the start of a new era for the club, he was instead left cursing his luck after suffering a horror injury which will keep him out of action for months.

Weir had to be stretchered off early in the second half at Richmond Park, hospital X-rays later revealing he had broken his shin and displaced his ankle after a tackle by St Pat's hard man Vinny Perth.

Having discussed the situation with medical experts in Dublin, he is now facing up to the prospect of surgery to insert a pin into the ankle and is resigned to being nothing but a spectator as his team-mates look to kick-off Burley's reign in the SPL in successful fashion.

With the league campaign just over two weeks away, the cruel misfortune could not have come at a worse time for the player, who spent the latter half of last season trying to force his way into the team after recovering from a debilitating bout of the mumps.

While he will receive every encouragement from his team-mates during the coming dark days, his plight struck a particular chord with one member of the Tynecastle dressing-room.

Stephen Simmons knows better than most just how devastating such a blow can be.

Twelve months ago, the midfielder was pushing for a place in Craig Levein's team for the start of the season when he, too, was crocked.

Just days before the curtain went up on the SPL, Simmons broke his foot in a challenge with Hibs youngster Jay Shields in the final of the East of Scotland Shield.

The injury robbed the Hearts star of the chance of UEFA Cup action with the Gorgie outfit, the 23-year-old unable to play until January when he made his long-awaited comeback in the Tennent's Scottish Cup third-round clash with Partick Thistle at Firhill.

It was a painful and frustrating five months for Simmons, who knows what his team-mate is having to endure at the moment.

"We are all gutted for Graham," said Simmons. "I know exactly how he feels as it happened to me against Hibs just before the start of last season.

"It probably won't really sink in for a wee while yet, when the serious action gets underway in the league. It's a real sickener for him as he's done all the running in the pre-season but now when the games are coming along, he's picked up a bad injury.

"I knew there was something wrong as he was screaming on the ground and that's not like him at all."

The long road back to fitness will not be a pleasant journey for Weir but Simmons is confident he'll bounce back when he's once again ready to push for a place. "He'll need to come back and start all over again and will be chasing his fitness as everybody else will be ahead of him in that regard," he said.

"I was out for around five months and thought I'd be back sooner but just had to keep working hard at things. Weiry has to get over this - and he will.

"He's a bubbly wee guy and will bounce back and we all wish him well with his recovery."

Simmons himself is nursing a niggling thigh injury ahead of the new campaign. He was forced off in the first half of Tuesday's resounding 5-1 win over Bray Wanderers - he was withdrawn just moments after cracking home a 25-yard free-kick to put the visitors 2-0 up.

Burley revealed afterwards that the substitution was more of a precaution than anything else and the midfielder is anxious to avoid another stop-start opening to the season.

"I had been carrying the injury all week and felt it a bit in the first half at Bray," he said.

"We felt it was safer to come off as had I kept going it may have got worse. I knew was coming off before I took the free-kick and I was delighted to see it hit the back of the net.

"It was good to be involved in both matches in Ireland, I'm feeling fit despite the thigh and looking forward to the season."

Simmons has flattered to deceive since breaking into the Hearts first team, his inability to best use his undoubted skills a source of frustration for every manager he has worked under.

However, with a new one-year deal accepted during John Robertson's brief occupancy of the Gorgie hot seat, Simmons can look forward to now staking his claim for involvement under Burley.

It's an exciting challenge and one he insists he's relishing.

"Everything is fresh under the new gaffer and we're all on our toes as we all want to impress him," he said.

"There's been a real buzz in training as we're all working hard and trying to catch his eye and get a game.

"He told us when he came in that we were main players, that we were here and that he'd be looking at us first.

"He urged us to show him that he doesn't need to bring in lots of new players and hopefully we're doing that. I have been in and out of the team for a few seasons now but I'll just keep doing my best, with a bit of luck stay clear of injuries, and hopefully he'll like what he sees."

Simmons, who is set to sit out tonight's trip to East Fife, has not exactly been prolific when he has been given the chance - he couldn't recall the last time he scored for the first team when pressed on the matter. It was actually back in October 2003 against Partick at Firhill and he freely admits it's an aspect of his game which needs improving.

"It was great to score on Tuesday, even although it was just a pre-season friendly," he said.

"Hopefully there are more to come. If we can score goals from all over the park then it helps take the pressure off the strikers. And let's face it, we don't have too many of them going around at the moment!"

Taken from the Scotsman

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