Gary Locke stressed today that Rudi Skacel will be fit for action immediately should Hearts get permission to sign the talismanic Czech for a third time.
Tynecastle officials have already cancelled the playing registration of goalkeeping coach Alan Combe and submitted an official request to register Skacel in his place. The Scottish Professional Football League are due to decide on the matter next week.
Locke told the Evening News that Skacel looks ready to play having trained at Riccarton for the last two weeks. The 34-year-old has not featured in a competitive match since leaving Slavia Prague last May but Hearts are eager to sign him as a free agent. The move must first be approved by the SPFL, for the Jambos remain in administration and subject to a registration ban.
Combe has agreed to have his playing contract terminated to allow the possibility for Skacel to return through the “one in, one out” rule. SPFL officials are expected to deliver a verdict at some point next week.
By then, Hearts will have served the punishment issued by the Scottish Football Association which prevents them signing players over 21 until February 1 – another sanction for their lapse into administration last summer.
Furthermore, Hearts were hoping to submit a separate request to register a new under-21 striker today.
The club are trying to agree terms with a forward from England to replace 18-year-old midfielder Adam King, whose £200,000 transfer to Swansea City was completed yesterday.
Locke insisted fitness would not be a problem. “That’s not an issue for me because I’ve looked at his fitness and he certainly looks very fit,” said the manager. “Obviously, the only way he can get match-fit is by playing games. At the moment he can’t play, even in the under-20s. So that may be a slight problem. He’s one of these guys who doesn’t need a lot of games to get himself going, I know that from working with him before.
“Somebody of his calibre with his qualities and experience can make a big difference. You can see the way he finishes in training, that’s something I feel our young players can learn from. He’s been a big help just from training with us for the last couple of weeks.
“It’s not really a decision I can influence, it’s a decision that will be made by the SPFL. By freeing up Alan’s registration, we’re hoping to bring in a player. Whether that will come to anything, we can only try. If we do get positive news, there’s no denying I’d like to bring Rudi back.”
Skacel became a Tynecastle hero by winning the Scottish Cup in both his previous spells in Edinburgh. Locke is aware that the SPFL may view Hearts’ request to replace a goalkeeping coach who never appeared at first-team level with a figure as iconic as Skacel to be pushing the boundaries of their rules.
“I can understand why they might look at it that way, but at the same time Alan was a registered player,” Locke continued. “If we had problems in the goalkeeping department, I wouldn’t have hesitated to play Alan. He still trains and keeps himself really fit. He’s still someone who would have played.
“I’m delighted he’s agreed to do this and have his registration cancelled, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to try this. Alan is trying to do his best to help the club, which is fantastic to see. If we could bring in an outfield player in his place, we need to try.”