Steven Naismith aims for Hearts return against Rangers

Steven Naismith training with Scotland last month
Naismith was called up by Scotland at the start of September but did not feature due to his injury

Steven Naismith says he is on course to return after the international break to help Hearts "push on" from a shaky start to the season.

The Scotland forward, 33, made three appearances in August following a long-term knee injury but was then sidelined by a hamstring problem.

He hopes to feature against Rangers at Tynecastle on 20 October.

"We set up a plan, followed it well and every box has been ticked," he said of his recovery process.

Naismith, who signed a four-year contract in the summer after 18 months on loan from Norwich, admits it has been tough looking on as the Edinburgh side struggled.

Form has picked up in recent weeks, with an Edinburgh derby victory at Easter Road and a League Cup quarter-final win over Aberdeen on penalties, while Saturday's stalemate at St Mirren leaves them ninth in the Premiership.

Club owner Ann Budge issued a statement backing Craig Levein after protests from fans last month and Naismith says the manager has always had the full support of his squad.

"It wasn't nice," he said of the angry outcry. "It hasn't been a great start to the season.

"The statement didn't make a lot of difference to be honest. I've been in dressing rooms when it's not been great and managers have lost their jobs.

"It can suit some boys for the manager to go because they get another chance. There was none of that; the players were all behind the manager."

Naismith is not the only player missing for Levein, with Craig Halkett joining a long list of absentees at the weekend.

"I've never been involved in an injury crisis like this, it is incredible," the experienced striker told BBC Sportsound. "You've arguably got five players who would start every week who are out.

"Then the individual mistakes have been crazy. Six or seven of the goals we've lost have been from unforced errors.

"The players have seen on the training pitch what the manager is trying to do and what he expects from us.

"It's shown in the Aberdeen and Hibs games the level we need to get to. At the weekend, the boys maybe ran out of steam in a tough week.

"But that's the minimum now. We play Kilmarnock and then after break, we need to push on and start picking up results. Where we are sitting now is far from ideal."

Top Stories