Black touched by send-off from Hearts fans

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DEPARTING Hearts hero Ian Black admits he was touched by the standing ovation he received when he was substituted late in his last game.

The key midfielder ran the show in Saturday’s resounding win over Hibs and went off to rapturous applause before being hugged by manager Paulo Sergio.

“I thank every one of them who stood up and applauded me,” he said. “We deserved the win and they [the fans] deserved it, too. It was a great opportunity and I had to grab it with both hands.”

Black admits it will be a wrench to leave the club he supported as a boy and is already pondering the possibility of returning to Tynecastle at some point in the future. He said: “There is sadness at it coming to an end but there is going to be a new challenge. To finish on that is great. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it is maybe the right time to try something else. I definitely wouldn’t rule out coming back, being a Hearts fan. I shouldn’t be talking about retirement now but I’d love to come back here and finish as a player. It would be an emotional thing. You dream as a kid of playing for the club you support.”

Black admits his impending departure is the result of a mutual decision between himself and Hearts. “It’s a bit of both,” he confirmed. “I knew the club had a bit of financial trouble. We came to an agreement and I accepted what the plans were. I’ll move on and thank everyone inside the club because they have all looked after me.

“I’ve had tough times off the field and proved everyone wrong there. I thank everyone for supporting me.”

Black was quick to dismiss claims from Hibs that he should have been sent off for an early foul on Leigh Griffiths. “Not at all,” he insisted. “I had my eye on the ball. If you watch the telly, I never took my eye off the ball. He just happened to get in the way. Challenges happen – some you get punished for, some you don’t.

“It wasn’t a bad challenge. He was clever and leant in and got a foul. I think if I’d caught him the way he said I’d caught him then I wouldn’t be on the park.”