Gary Mackay: Club chiefs must steady our ship in the summer

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I think it pretty much sums up what has happened to our club that a year after scoring the opening goal in the most momentous game in our history, Darren Barr, one of the last remaining players from that 5-1 win over Hibs, played his last game after becoming the latest victim to the worrying situation now gripping our club.

We knew times were about to get tougher after the high of last May, but I don’t think any of us could have envisaged waking up a year later worrying over whether or not we’d still be playing SPL football. As supporters, we can only hope and pray things go in our favour with regards to whether or not we are deemed to have breached the rules.

If we are to incur a punishment, then I would definitely rather take instant relegation and start next season with a clean slate in the First Division. If we were to remain in the SPL but start next season with a points deduction, I think it would place too much pressure on what is sure to be a further-weakened Hearts team. Relegation would be a likely outcome, so I’d be in favour of taking our medicine now rather than delaying the inevitable if we are found to have broken the rules.

Regardless of which division we’re in next season, whether it’s the SPL, the First Division or the Third Division, Gary Locke needs to be able to bring in an assistant manager with a deep professional knowledge. That is of primary importance because, as things stand, the manager’s job is only going to get tougher next season and he will need all the support he can get.

Speaking of support, Aberdeen’s offer of £5 a ticket for Saturday brought out an impressive crowd of over 10,000 people for a pretty meaningless game on Saturday, so there are lessons to be learned for the powers-that-be in Scottish football regarding pricing. Obviously clubs can’t afford to do that in every game, but pricing certainly needs to be looked at. Offering deals to schools to help fill empty stadiums is also a no-brainer, in my view.

It was encouraging that the crowd on Saturday was swelled by a significant contingent of Hearts fans, and the players who remain at the club will be heartened by the fact that they have the backing of a truly rock-solid support. I just hope that the Hearts hierarchy don’t continue to try and take advantage of that unwavering support, as these fans have already dug deep enough to try and help the club.

Those who were at Pittodrie saw the type of display which pretty much sums up how our season has gone. We were spirited enough, as has been the case, for much of the campaign, but we just didn’t have enough to get over the line before we were pegged back by the loss of an unfortunate goal. The league table never lies, though, and you would have to say that the League Cup run, and notably the semi-final win over Inverness, was the highlight of what has been an underwhelming but highly stressful campaign for all those who care for Hearts.

In terms of standout players, I don’t think there’s been one. I’ve probably singled out every individual for a bit of praise at some point, but, over the course of the season, there has been nobody in a Hearts jersey who has been consistently impressive and that probably explains why the season’s been so poor. If I had to single out one player, it would probably be Barr. I’ve been a big fan of Darren’s during his time at Hearts and I have massive sympathy for him over the fact we can’t offer him a new deal.

It’s a crying shame for the supporters that we have lost so many key men in such a short space of time. However things unfold over the summer, we simply can’t afford to continue in such a chaotic manner.