WERE it evident three years ago that Danny Wilson’s £2 million transfer to Liverpool would end with him being released for free, clubs would have been camping outside Melwood fighting for his signature. Most of them would have been of far greater stature than Hearts. Signing the Scotland centre-back on a three-year contract at no cost represents an astute piece of business.
The finances behind it are unusual given Hearts expect to have a funding gap of more than £2m to bridge next season, yet they are signing new players on long-term deals. There remains continuing uncertainty over parent company UBIG and how their financial collapse will affect the club, but Wilson has received assurances.
“You do ask the question but the club have always said that there’s nothing for the players to concern themselves about,” he said. “You read and hear things and it is a bit unnerving but the club have given me the opportunity to play here. I don’t see why they would offer me a contract if there wasn’t any future.” Wilson is not on big money, he signed in order to further what remains a promising career. He is still just 21 but carries a CV bearing the names of Rangers, Liverpool, Blackpool, Bristol City and now Hearts. That experience normally costs a premium, however a deal has been done to bring a prize asset to Tynecastle. “My agent told me there was the potential for an offer,” he continued. “I let him deal with all that and I signed last week when everything was ready. I’m more than happy. We’d spoken about something possibly being done a few months ago but these things take time. It’s done now and I’m looking forward to the next three years.
“It would be foolish not to consider other options but once they were put to me there was nothing I wanted to pursue other than Hearts. I’ve enjoyed my time here and I didn’t see any point in changing. I’ve played for five different clubs and I’m only 21. I’ve really enjoyed being here so I didn’t see the point in seeking something new when it wasn’t something I wanted to do.” After previous loan spells at Blackpool and Bristol City, Wilson joined Hearts on loan back in January despite the club being restricted to signing players aged 21 and under by SPL sanctions. “To be given the opportunity to come to a club like Hearts and start playing regularly was something I was really keen to do,” he continued. “I didn’t have any thoughts about next season. Before I came here in January, I’d only made one sub appearance all season. It was really important for me to play regularly, I didn’t come with any other motive. There were other (Championship) clubs interested in signing me but there was never really anything for me to consider. If it was going to be any club, it was Hearts. They were keen to bring me here and I was keen to stay when I got the offer.”
Tying Wilson to a long-term contract gives Hearts options. Firstly, he will immediately become a cornerstone of next season’s team. Thereafter, he could earn the club some vital income in future transfer windows if an offer comes in.
“Right now my focus is on playing for Hearts and contributing to the club, trying to be a success,” he stated. “If that means they sell me later on, then that’s part of football and I understand that. It’s not something I need to consider right now. My focus isn’t to come here and work my ticket to get myself out. I want to bring success to Hearts, that’s the only thought in my head. I’ve had a great time here, I’ve taken to the boys and the fans have been great.”
An added bonus for Wilson is he gets to remain close to family and friends in West Lothian, where he grew up.
“A lot of my friends are Hearts fans and a lot of them are season-ticket holders. They’ve been pestering me as much as anyone about my future. I’ve kept it between me and my family and my girlfriend and they’re all delighted I’m staying here and they can come and see me play. I’m pleased to be playing for a great club like Hearts and still be close to them. My mates can read me better than most people because they’ve known me since childhood. I think they knew what was going on. They were happy when I said I was staying.”
Whilst aiming to help Hearts to success, Wilson also harbours serious ambitions of rekindling his Scotland career. He last played for the national team in a 2-2 European Championship qualifying draw with the Czech Republic in September 2011.
“I’d love to be in the Scotland squad right now but it hasn’t happened. It might not happen for another wee while so there’s no point in me thinking about that. My focus is on what I can do for Hearts while I’m here. If that means I become an international player again while I’m here, then great. If not, I’ll need to work harder to push myself into Gordon Strachan’s thoughts.”