GARY LOCKE stressed today he is content with his squad after Hearts were banned from signing players aged 21 and over by a Scottish Football Association disciplinary tribunal.
The Edinburgh club cannot recruit anyone whilst in administration, and yesterday the SFA issued them a fixed-term registration embargo until February 1, 2014, for players age 21 and above. That embargo will take effect if or when Hearts emerge from administration.
The sanction is punishment for breaking the SFA’s disciplinary rule 14 (g) by suffering an insolvency event with the onset of administration on June 19.
It leaves Locke unable to add any experience to his youthful first-team squad during the current and next transfer windows. Although frustrated, the Hearts manager backed the players available ahead of their opening Scottish Premiership match against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Sunday.
“We had done a lot of homework because we thought we would be able to bring in a few players over the summer,” he told the Evening News. “We do have a small squad and it’s important, if we do get to add to it at any point in the season, that you bring in the right type of player.
“If it happens, it happens. I’m quite happy going with the squad that’s here at the minute. We have young boys there but I think a lot of them have old heads on young shoulders. I’ve certainly got no qualms about them, they all just love playing football.”
Trevor Birch, a partner at Hearts administrators BDO, expressed his disappointment at the SFA’s verdict: “We had a fair hearing but I’m slightly disappointed in the embargo, which has been extended to the end of January for players over 21,” he said. “So we are allowed to sign players under the age of 21 once we come out of administration, but not to sign anybody over 21 until February 1, 2014.
“How can I say how it is going to impact us on the pitch? It is certainly not going to help. We had hoped they would just extend it to the end of December and give us the opportunity to refresh the squad in January.
“But that’s presuming, of course, that we are out of administration by then. It is not going to be a quick resolution, which is why I’m saying we may not even be out of administration by January. Therefore, in that situation it wouldn’t affect us. We still have the situation in Lithuania to resolve. That process will take time. It may well drag on and we have to be prepared for that.”