HEARTS were expecting a request to sign new players to be rejected by the Scottish Professional Football League today as injuries worsen at the club’s Riccarton training base.
Jamie Walker was due for a scan on a suspected broken foot this afternoon, whilst Kevin McHattie’s hamstring flared up against Motherwell at the weekend. Walker left Tynecastle on crutches after the game and McHattie limped out of the ground. Those injuries plus others to Jason Holt, Gary Oliver and Mark Ridgers recently have left an already threadbare squad buckling and 20 points adrift at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership.
Manager Gary Locke has struggled to find seven substitutes to fill his bench, resulting in administrators BDO making an official appeal to the SPFL last week to relax Hearts’ registration ban and let them replenish their squad.
The SPFL were due to meet today to discuss the matter during a board meeting, however they are certain to refuse to lift the embargo. The only consolation for Hearts could lie in League rule E16.1, which states that a club in administration can apply to register a new player to replace a departing player. The SPFL board would judge any such request on a case-by-case basis.
Some free agents have indicated they would be willing to join Hearts – such as midfielder Rudi Skacel, who has returned to Edinburgh – but BDO must apply to register a new player if one leaves. An offer of around £200,000 from Swansea has been accepted for teenage midfielder Adam King, although he is eager to stay at Tynecastle until the summer before heading to Wales. Ryan Stevenson has also attracted interest from China but no deal has been done.
Without the SPFL agreeing to lift their registration ban entirely, Hearts must wait until they can sell a player before asking to register a new one. Administrator Bryan Jackson is not hopeful that they SPFL will relax their rules but said: “I just feel that I have to try because what makes the difference now is we can see the results of playing young boys week after week and with injuries.”
Locke added: “It was always going to be a long, hard season for us. It’s a lot for 17 and 18-year-old kids to take on. I’d love to have a couple of experienced players to help them on the pitch. Jamie Walker came off on Saturday and the early signs are he might have done his metatarsal. That would be a disaster for us.
“Kevin McHattie had to come off with a hamstring. If we lose Adam King [immediately] we’re losing another player. I had Gary Oliver on the bench on Saturday and he hasn’t played for three or four weeks. Callum Tapping was on the bench and was only half fit. We’re certainly finding it difficult and it would be great to get a help.
“All we’re asking for is a wee bit of help.”