HEARTS will decide next month which out-of-contract players to release at the end of the season, with manager Gary Locke stressing that many of his squad are now playing for new deals.
Andy Webster, Marius Zal-iukas, Darren Barr, Danny Grainger, Dylan McGowan, Arvydas Novikovas, Gordon Smith and Fraser Mullen are all in the final weeks of their existing contracts with their futures uncertain.
Webster and Zaliukas are the highest earners in the squad, and Locke admitted finances will dictate who is offered an extension. He challenged players today to show their worth to Hearts, starting against Aberdeen at Pittodrie tomorrow.
“We’re all playing for something. There are no meaningless games at this club,” Locke told the Evening News. “Whether it be playing to get into the team or playing for contracts, I expect every single player who pulls on a Hearts jersey to give it everything.
“I’ve not heard for definite about Webster or Zaliukas moving on. I expect all these boys to be spoken to in the next two or three weeks. They aren’t players I’d like to lose, but with the current financial situation in Scottish football, they might see their futures elsewhere.
“We have a lot of players out of contract. Next season, we’ll have a lot of players on a more meaningful wage. There won’t be any players on huge amounts of money because we’ve all suffered for that this season.
“We’ve got to try and start rebuilding now. It will be difficult. Myself, John Murray and the club directors are working hard behind the scenes to plan for next season. We still have a lot of talented players under contract here. They’ve had a lot to deal with but there will be a few players moving on. Hopefully, there will a few players coming in.”
Any new recruits will be signed on manageable wages as Hearts look to become self-sufficient. “I think those days (of big salaries) are gone, not just at Hearts but at every club in Scotland,” said Locke. “We need to be realistic and the sooner everybody realises that the better. It’s been a harsh
lesson but we’ve nearly turned the corner.”
The manager stressed every point between now and the season’s end is vital to Hearts, even though they will play in the bottom six of the SPL. “We all realise it’s a disappointing season. A club like this shouldn’t be in the position we’re in, but we are. The target now is to finish as high up the league as we can because every league place is worth money. Everybody knows the financial situation so, from my point of view, the season is far from over.
“I want to win as many games as possible. If that means putting a young lad in, I don’t have a problem with that because we’ve done that all season anyway. The most important thing is picking the right team for each game. We owe it to our supporters to win as many games as possible between now and the end of the season.”