Peter Haring gives update on Hearts fitness - 'it's just great to be back'
Peter Haring’s injury progress report makes pleasing reading seven games into his Hearts comeback.
He is pain-free, feeling positive and playing with a widening smile on his face. There are no problems and no negative thoughts in his mind. He can even look forward to another Scottish Cup final.
The Austrian returned from a 17-month absence last month as persistent pelvic problems finally abated. Players commonly suffer niggles and setbacks after such a long period out, but Haring hitherto has not.
Fingers are firmly crossed throughout Riccarton in the hope that situation continues. He has made seven appearances since the season began and will reach eight on Friday at Dunfermline.
"It feels very good. The best thing is just to come in every day here and enjoy football again. Playing games at the end of the week is the highlight. It's just great to be back,” explained Haring.
"After I had my most-recent surgery, I did not really have a timescale in my head. I just listened to my body and the physios. I improved pretty steadily. It wasn't really quicker.
"I always thought that once I'm back playing I would still feel something here and there, but at the moment it's feeling really good. I'm playing the games without any problems at all, no bad feelings at all, no bad thoughts at all. That's really positive for me.”
His last action before the exasperating lay-off was the 2019 Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park.
He returned to Mount Florida to help Hearts beat Hibs in the Scottish Cup semi-final last month and can now anticipate another final appearance on December 20 against Celtic.
He isn’t sure how he will feel walking out of the tunnel. “I don't know. I was at Hampden a few weeks ago,” he smiled.
"That was a moment which made me look back a little bit, thinking about my last game there before my injury.
"It was such a big occasion and I feel really delighted to just enjoy those moments again. By the time we play Celtic, I hope I'm not thinking about that any more.
“I don’t think there’s a day I can pinpoint and say I’ve been over it [injury] since then.
“It’s just when you’ve been out for such a long time and you do your rehab, you go little by little and those small steps every day get you back to where you have been.
“Without even realising it, you come to a point where you don’t really think about it anymore.”
At no point did Haring believe he would be forced into retirement, nor is there regret that he played in that 2019 final.
Hernia and pelvic problems plagued him late in 2018 and early 2019 before surgery in June this year finally brought a breakthrough.
"It was just frustrating getting to the root of the problem. I always thought that once somebody told me the problem and what we need to do, I was confident that I would be back playing.
“Nothing special changed. I've had a number of surgeries in the last few years. The rehab I'd already done didn't help so we re-did the hernia and that seemed to fix it.”
He feels indebted to Hearts for aiding his recovery and funding operations. “I feel really thankful to the whole club for how they have treated me and helped me through this whole period. It feels good,” said Haring.
“The way I have been treated my whole time is exactly the way you would want to be treated as a player. On the other side, there has been no-one more frustrated than myself during this whole period.”
Managerial changes only exacerbated the angst. Craig Levein was in charge of Hearts when Haring was sidelined, Daniel Stendel came and went in between, and Robbie Neilson returned to Tynecastle Park in June.
Neilson’s man-management skills acted as a comfort blanket for the club’s injured midfielder.
"I didn’t know Robbie before. To be honest, when he came in I was thinking more about my health because he came in just a few weeks after I had had my operation,” recalled Haring.
“So I was more concerned about what was happening with my body. To be fair to him, when he got the job a few days later he phoned me up and we were always in contact.
“He told me that he trusted me and he would support me in any way he could. So he’s been really, really good to me from the first time I spoke to him.”
Stendel and Haring spoke the same language but never once shared a training pitch.
“That’s the thing, I didn’t really have a relationship with him,” said Haring. “When he came in, because we spoke the same language, I tried to help him.
"I felt it was the least I could do because I couldn’t play football but as time went on and I wasn’t involved in training sessions, I hardly got to see the players or the manager.
“So I can’t really say anything about him because I wasn’t able to enjoy one training session under him. I can’t judge him as a coach at all, and that’s frustrating.
“He was my manager but he doesn’t know me as a player and I don’t know him as a coach. That tells you how long I was out for.”
• Heart of Midlothian FC is joining forces with the club’s charity Big Hearts and the supporters’ forum Jambos Kickback to help our local food bank face what will be a very difficult winter.
Hearts Supporters are encouraged to make an online donation here: https://www.hmfckickback.co.uk/index.php?/clients/donations/
The funds raised will go to support local families in food poverty over Christmas and the winter.