St Johnstone star Nicky Clark may have escaped a long spell on the sidelines, with manager Craig Levein revealing a scan on his injured calf has provided better news than feared.
The Perth boss initially suspected that the former Dundee United and Rangers forward could be out until the new year, after hurting his calf and being forced off early during Saints’ last game against Ross County.
No exact timescale has yet been put on Clark’s return.
But the signs are far more encouraging than a week ago.
“Nicky got a scan and isn’t too serious at all,” said Levein.
“We’re happier about his progress. We don’t know about next week or the week after, though.
“I’d like to get him back as quickly as possible as he’s a proven goalscorer at this level.
“But there are a lot of things I wish for that I don’t get!”
Even without Clark for an extended period, Levein would be reluctant to dip into the free agent market.
“The problem would be that the window is open fairly soon,” he explained.
“Whoever we get maybe hasn’t been doing anything since the summer and there will be that period of three or four weeks you need to get them up to speed.
“It’s almost not worth it as you’re coming into the window.
“We have a meeting this afternoon to go through all the recruitment stuff.”
Cammy MacPherson has taken his chance to catch his manager’s eye during the international break.
However, a training ground injury looks to have scuppered any chance of a weekend start against Hearts.
“Cammy felt his thigh in training today,” said Levein. “It’s a bit of a blow as he’s been doing well.
“He’s had injury after injury. We played a bounce game last week and he was good. He’s been good in training.”
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All of Saints’ international players are back at McDiarmid Park fit and healthy.
“Dan (Phillips) trained well today,” said Levein. “So did Max (Kucheriavyi) and Dimi (Mitov).
“I like having players that go away on international duty. It’s a break for them and they come back with a sense of pride.”
Levein’s Tynecastle return will see him a few yards down the touchline from Steven Naismith, a player he signed.
“Naisy was down at Norwich at the time,” he said.
“He played for me in the national team as well. He’s got a wee bit about him. Feisty!
“He’s done well, it’s a big club to manage for your first job and he’s done a decent job so far.
“Let’s see if I can put him under a bit of pressure now!”
A win for Saints would take them to within just three points of their opponents.
“You can climb the table easily but you can also fall down it easily,” said Levein.
“But I’m not that interested in looking at it just now.
“If we can keep picking up some points, playing well at the same time then at least we’ve got some substance behind it.
“Not going up then down is what we want.
“We’re working hard on the training ground to get the players into a way of thinking and way of playing.
“We look at every fixture as an exam. We’ll see how this exam goes.”