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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Eddie Smith
6 of 039 Michael Stewart 62 L SPL A

Sidelined Mike sees light at the end of tunnel at Hearts

MIKE TULLBERG intends to return to Hearts the week beginning Monday March 9, according to his agent. Copenhagen-based Ivan Marco Benes was unable to fully explain the reason for the striker's prolonged rehabilitation when questioned on the matter, but he admitted that the delay has been for medical reasons and that Tullberg is determined to assert himself once back in Edinburgh.
Since signing a season-long loan deal from the Italian club Reggina last summer, the 23-year-old has played just twice for Hearts due to two ruptured thigh muscles.

He last featured in the home defeat by Kilmarnock last October before tearing a quad muscle in a sprinting session at Riccarton the following week.

Club officials allowed him to return to his native Denmark for treatment, where he has been working with specialist doctors at a medical centre near Brondby. Benes said the player is distraught at the extent of his injury problems but remains resolved to proving himself worthy of a longer stay at Hearts. As part of the loan agreement with Reggina, the Tynecastle club have first option to sign Tullberg in May.

"I spoke to Mike yesterday and he hopes to be back not next week but the week after. He wants to be in Edinburgh within 14 days," said Benes. "It looks like he is healed. He is still testing the injury every day at a higher and higher note, so things are looking good for him.

"He has been training with two doctors who are helping him recover at a medical facility out here but it has been very frustrating for him.

"He would love to stay longer with Hearts. But he knows right now that they're not going to sign him when he has not shown them what he can do.

"He is desperate to try to make some sort of impact when he comes back. He has always been a fit guy and his rehab has been going really well. He is very happy that Hearts let him go back to Denmark to get better."

Tullberg's absence has coincided with a striking dearth at Tynecastle. Manager Csaba Laszlo has persisted with Christian Nade as a lone forward due to lack of options and has spoken many times of Tullberg being "like a new player" when he returns. However, that has not stopped the Hungarian musing publicly about the possibility of terminating the loan agreement with Reggina, so frustrated has he become with the player's recovery period.

"Of course that's not something you really want to happen when you are on a loan because what could he do then?" said Benes. "It works both ways, when you sign a loan deal these things can happen. This is part of being in the football world and Hearts know that. They know that sometimes players get injured but this is really frustrating for Mike.

"He has already played a little bit in the team and he just wanted to get in to his rhythm and start scoring some goals. I can't say exactly what caused the delay in his recovery because I am not a medical expert. I can only tell you what Mike has said, which is that things are looking positive."

The levels of frustration felt by Laszlo mirror those coursing through Tullberg as he pounds the grounds of the Danish medical facility. "It hurts when you know that, had you been there at the club, you might have had a chance to play. That is the most annoying thing for him," continued Benes.

"His morale is okay, he is just frustrated that he can't play right now. He would like to show the supporters and the management what he can do. He is really annoyed and just wants to come back as soon as possible to show everybody at Hearts what he is capable of.

"He wants to show why the Italian club signed him for ¤1million and why Hearts took the chance to loan him."

Perhaps unfairly, comparisons have been made between Tullberg and injury-prone former Hearts forward Mauricio Pinilla. The Chilean, now with Cypriot club Apollon Limassol, made just eight appearances in two years in Scotland and left a series of managers perplexed over how to get him fit and stimulated for football.

Motivation does not appear to be Tullberg's problem but former Hearts coach John McGlynn, one of those who tried to get inside Pinilla's mind, sympathises with Laszlo's predicament as the Hungarian awaits the return of one of his few reputable strikers.

"I think the manager will be even more frustrated than we were with Pinilla," said McGlynn. "He doesn't have the options available when I was there. I think he finds himself with a lack of options so he's relying a lot on Christian Nade doing a big job up front.

"Pinilla came in and looked like he was going to be a particularly good striker, he was very direct and he hit the ball harder than I've ever seen anyone hit a ball.

"But at that time we still had Roman Bednar, Edgaras Jankauskas, Michal Pospisil and Calum Elliot. There were a lot of good strikers at the club. The fact that Pinilla got injured fairly early meant he didn't fulfil the potential we all thought he had. There's no question he did have the ability but didn't produce it because of injuries.

"You would hope that, in time, Tullberg will come back and produce the goods. You have to think he was brought in because the manager thought he could go and do a job for him, but the team has been denied his services. You look at David Obua, who Csaba also brought in and who is now playing particularly well. I think you have to give the manager credit for recognising that this player was one he had worked with and who could do a job here. In recent weeks I think he's shown that after his settling-in period."

McGlynn feels Laszlo's 4-4-1-1 formation is symptomatic of the problems he faces in attack. "I certainly feel he's been forced into it. I don't know enough about the style of his teams before he came to Hearts. You get managers who are defensively-minded and others who are attack-minded.

"He obviously feels that's the best system for the players he has right now, maybe in another job he was very attack-minded.

"If you ask any manager, you can only deal with what you have. You just have to let your physio staff deal with any injured players and concentrate on those who are fit. They are the ones who might do something for you on Saturday. Injured players can only be considered when they're fit to play.

"If they are in the treatment room working with a physio, quite often it's out of sight and out of mind. You have too much to deal with relating to the team who can play without worrying about injured players who are out for a considerable time.

"That was the issue with Pinilla, under all the managers who came and went. Initially it was myself and Valdas (Ivanauskas] and then Eduard Malofeev who had to deal with him but we still had a lot of strikers at the club. That meant it wasn't such an issue, we got on with it because we had others."

Laszlo, of course, does not have that luxury, and therefore will be praying that Tullberg is ready to rock when he rolls back into Edinburgh next month.

Tullberg's tale of Tynecastle torment

July 22, 2008: Hearts welcome Mike Tullberg to their training camp in Germany. He plays final 20 minutes of 1-0 defeat to Kaiserslautern.

July 26: Tullberg plays in last 20 minutes of 6-0 victory over a Rheingau select. Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo says he will assess Tullberg further in training, once he recovers from a minor knock.

July 29: Tullberg's hopes of winning a move to Hearts suffer a setback after the striker ruptured a muscle in his leg, expected to sideline him for up to three weeks.

August 11: Tullberg signs on a season-long loan deal from Reggina. Hearts secure first option to make the move permanent.

August 30: Club report that Tullberg should be fit for his debut against Falkirk the following week.

September 5: Tullberg returns to Denmark for further treatment on persistent muscle injury. He hopes to attain full fitness asap.

September 20: Tullberg back in Edinburgh and following a special programme for his fitness.

September 27: Makes debut as a substitute in 3-0 defeat at Dundee United.

October 4: Makes home debut and starts in 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock at Tynecastle.

October 7: Tullberg told to continue full training at Riccarton during two-week international break.

October 14: Tullberg misses training with a stomach complaint but Laszlo does not expect it to threaten his availability for the upcoming derby at Easter Road.

October 18: Tullberg absent from derby squad because of another thigh injury.

November 6: Laszlo reveals Tullberg will return to full training in a fortnight, but Hearts boss insists he can't afford to rush the striker back into the first team. "Mike Tullberg is almost there," he said.

November 20: Laszlo predicts that Hearts' medical staff will rehabilitate Tullberg in the same way they restored Bruno Aguiar, Robbie Neilson and Christian Nade to full fitness.

November 25: Tullberg suffers a setback in his attempts to recover from a ruptured thigh muscle and may now require further specialist treatment in his native Denmark.

December 19: Tullberg back in Denmark and not likely to return before 2009.

January 16: Frustrated, Laszlo says Tullberg may never play for Hearts again. "Mike is a special case, but it's not funny any more. Every day, we speak with the doctors treating Mike in Denmark and they don't know when he will be back with us. He is a good player but he has only played one game and he is always injured."

January 24: Tullberg to remain in Denmark for treatment on torn quad muscle.

February 7: Tullberg due to return to Riccarton in the hope of finally establishing himself at Hearts.

February 14: Laszlo reveals that he hopes a fully revitalised Tullberg can solve Hearts' striking problems when he returns to Edinburgh.

February 21: Tullberg, pictured right, is expected back at Riccarton by Hearts "imminently"...

Taken from the Scotsman

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