Giovanni van Bronckhorst expressed sympathy for luckless John Souttar after confirming the Rangers defender is out until after the World Cup following surgery.
The 26-year-old Scotland international, bedevilled with Achilles problems in the past, suffered an ankle injury at Hearts last season which kept him out for several weeks, although he returned before the end of the campaign before making the switch to Ibrox in the summer.
Souttar came off in the second half of his Gers debut away to Livingston on July 30 and has not played since.
Ahead of the cinch Premiership game against Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday lunchtime, the Gers boss said: “We will expect John after the World Cup. I have a lot of sympathy for John.
“He brought the problem with him when he changed teams.
“We needed to operate on him again so he feels much better now.
“It is always difficult to play with pain. It is the first time in many months that he is pain-free and he can do his rehab so hopefully that is the end of all the difficult times he had and bringing him back to full fitness and get him going.”
Van Bronckhorst also confirmed that defender Filip Helander, who has a foot injury which has kept him out since April, is also out until after the Qatar competition, saying, “I don’t know the timescale for his injury”.
He reported new injuries since the 2-1 win over Dundee United before the international break which means goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and Tom Lawrence remain out although striker Kemar Roofe is back training and he will be assessed, with the Dutchman hoping he is back “sooner rather than later.”
Celtic dropped three unexpected points against St Mirren in Paisley in their last outing which means a win over Hearts can leapfrog the Gers to the top of the table, albeit with the Hoops hosting Motherwell later in the day
The Ibrox boss said: “We had some disappointing results, especially against Celtic and two big defeats in the Champions League (Ajax and Napoli).
“The win against Dundee United helped us in the sense of getting back to the three points.
“That’s all we can do, just stay focusing on winning our games. We have to continue with that.
“We have a big game tomorrow against Hearts away so we want to continue winning in the league, that is the focus we all have.
“Hearts had a good game against us in the Scottish Cup final a few months ago so I am pleased to see them play in Europe, for Hearts as a club and for Scottish football.
“We always have a tough game away to Hearts but in the last couple of games we had positive outcomes so we have to show the same spirit.”