RYAN McGowan flew out to China last night for talks with Shandong Luneng Taishan after Hearts agreed a £400,000 fee with the club.
• Ryan McGowan leaves Hearts after fee agreed with Chinese club Shandong Luleng Taishan
• Player will be a “big miss”, according to John McGlynn
The 23-year-old Australian’s contract was up in the summer, and the money from his transfer will take Hearts significantly closer to the £1.8million sum they need to get through the season.
Manager John McGlynn always expected to lose at least one player during the transfer window, and McGowan’s versatility and relative youth have made him one of the Edinburgh club’s prize assets. Even before it was confirmed that McGowan was on his way to the People’s Republic, McGlynn had already accepted that the full-back would play no part in tonight’s league game at home to Hibs.
“The club has accepted a bid for Ryan, subject to a medical, and he won’t play in the game,” McGlynn said. “Although he has not put pen to paper, we can’t run the risk of him getting
injured and possibly making that deal a problem.
“It’s disappointing to lose him, but the state of affairs at the football club means that if good offers come in, the club has to accept them. He hasn’t signed yet, and from that point of view fans will be saying that he is still a Hearts player and should play, but if he got a serious injury that deal would go down the tubes and this football club needs the money.”
McGowan, whose younger brother Dylan is also at Hearts, made his debut in 2008. He became a first-team regular last season and scored against Hibs in the Scottish Cup final. With an SPL registration ban still in place, McGlynn may not be able to replace him any time soon, but understands that financial survival is paramount.
“Since the summer he has played every single minute of every single game, so he has been a massive influence on and off the pitch. He is a really good character and you can’t get enough of that type,” he said.
“He’s a great lad and his brother is very similar. He will be a big miss from my point of view. He played 23 games for Hearts last year and five sub appearances, but he’s already played 20 games this season.
“It’s only really in the last 18 months that he has become a regular, but he has done very well and I am sure Ryan was of the opinion that Hearts should get money for him if he was moving. I don’t think he wanted to go without the club getting anything for him.
“He has improved a lot, but his best years are still ahead of him. Hopefully he will develop further and have a great career.”
Hearts’ recent share offer raised just over £1m, and McGlynn has accepted that he might lose another player this month as the club try to reach their declared break-even figure of £1.8m. “The Hearts fans were magnificent to raise the amount of money they have done, and you can’t take that for granted at all – but it’s still short,” the manager added.
“If Ryan McGowan’s money doesn’t fill that gap would that suggest that someone else has maybe got to go? That’s not for me to say, but it is a possibility. I don’t think they are in a position to turn down any reasonable offer. I’ve said this many times here – we’ve really just got to survive until the summer.
“We are still paying out far too much money and not bringing in enough. It’s really about getting to the summer and getting the wage bill down to a level within which Hearts can work.
“Ryan is out of contract in the summer and if the football club were in a better financial situation then that [the transfer] would not need to be done. We are where we are and that’s why this is happening.”
Besides losing McGowan for tonight’s match, McGlynn also has what he called “a major doubt” over an unnamed player. If that player is Andy Webster, who was doubtful for the game against Ross County which ended up being postponed last week, the manager will have a big problem in defence. Darren Barr can play at right-back or centre-half. but seems more likely to take up the latter position if Webster is ruled out.