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Hearts boss Craig Levein hopes to help toughen up youngster Harry Cochrane

Harry Cochrane in action for Hearts
Harry Cochrane in action for Hearts

Hearts manager Craig Levein hopes a season of strengthening up will help teenager Harry Cochrane flourish in the Premiership.

The 17-year-old midfielder has played just a handful of games this term after making 25 appearances the previous year in an eye-catching breakthrough campaign.

Cochrane was also singled out for praise for his goal and all-round performance in ending Celtic’s 19-month unbeaten domestic run in December, 2017.

The arrival of 18 new players last summer, and a clutch of injury problems, have restricted Cochrane’s game time this season, but Levein admits the player is still firmly in his thoughts.

Levein said: “Harry’s had five injuries this season and all of them are game-impact injuries.

“He needs to strengthen up.

“Technically, he has everything you could ever need to play in the Scottish Premiership in midfield.

“Last year I used him a lot as I didn’t have many options. But having Peter Haring in, Arnaud Djoum back to fitness, and we’ve got Olly Lee and Bozanic, it’s given Harry a bit of time to grow.”

Scotland defender Stephen O’Donnell concedes it is not just Kieran Tierney he needs to worry about in the battle for the right-back position, after admitting he has been impressed with Liam Palmer.

Cardiff City’s Callum Paterson started last November’s UEFA Nations League victories over Albania and Israel in that role.

But in a bid to find space for his two left-backs, captain and Liverpool player Andy Robertson and Tierney, in the side, team manager Alex McLeish has hinted that he could ask the Celtic stalwart to start on other flank.

Sheffield Wednesday right-back Liam Palmer’s maiden call up adds to the options and six-times capped O’Donnell admits he has a fight on his hands.

Rugby Park man O’Donnell said: “There is absolutely no issue here, it’s the manager’s prerogative to do what he feels is best.

“Tierney is a player with great ability and we’re blessed with two of the best left-backs in Britain.

“There is also Liam Palmer. I’ve not met him, but I’ve heard he’s a very good player.

“I actually watched him on television when I was away with Kilmarnock in Tenerife last week.

“I saw him for the first time and he was playing left-back and I didn’t know who he was.

“I thought, ‘He looks a good player’. I asked Alex Bruce and he told me, ‘He’s the right-back’.

“Then I find out a week later that he’s Scottish.”