Hearts manager Gary Locke today advised supporters not to expect big names to replace young kids as club officials explore the possibility of signing players on a one in, one out basis.
The Scottish Professional Football League will consider requests by Hearts to replace any player who departs on a case by case basis. However, with the club in administration and under a registration embargo, Locke is keen that fans don’t get their hopes up.
The sight of Rudi Skacel returning to Riccarton this week has heightened anticipation of the Czech joining for a third time. Hearts would certainly be interested in bringing Skacel in and would also like to register under-20 coach Robbie Neilson as a player.
Anyone Hearts are allowed to sign must be on a “like-for-like” basis, meaning any experienced stars could only replace first-team mainstays. Swansea have had a £200,000 bid accepted for 18-year-old midfielder Adam King, whilst there is interest in Ryan Stevenson from CFR Cluj and St Mirren. Stevenson’s contract allows him to leave Tynecastle of his own accord at any point this month.
“There are obviously loads of players I would love to bring to the club,” said Locke, “but it is not just as straightforward as one out, one in. It still has to go to a panel. And they could turn round and say you can’t sign anyone because at the end of the day we are in administration and under a transfer embargo. I think it is important the fans get that message as well.
“Being a local lad myself, I meet fans around and they think it is just a case of getting rid of a player and then bringing one in – it is not as easy as that. It still has to go in front of a panel who decide. Certainly, if I lose a player, we will be trying our best to bring a player in because everyone knows the depth of the squad is not what it should be.”
King’s move to Swansea has yet to be finalised. He could sign a pre-contract agreement with the English Premier League club or leave immediately. “There are still talks on going at the moment,” continued Locke. “Obviously it would be a great opportunity for the lad. He is not a player that we want to lose because he is a talented young player.
“With the situation the club is in, it is very difficult to turn that kind of offer down. So that is in the hands of the people who are at the top of the club. We will see what happens over the next few days.
“One thing about Hearts, if we do get the CVA, we need to try and rebuild. And you don’t want to be losing your best players. Obviously there is speculation about Ryan, but at the moment there is nothing concrete. I have spoken to him. By his performances and the way he is, you can tell he loves it here. There is not a great deal I can do if a club comes in with a big offer, but he is certainly not a player I would want to lose.”
Meanwhile, Hearts forwards Ryan Stevenson and Callum Paterson are doubtful for today’s match with St Johnstone after being hit by illness.
Midfielder Scott Robinson is suspended, but skipper Danny Wilson is back in contention after illness and left-back Kevin McHattie is expected to shake off a hamstring problem. Second-choice goalkeeper Mark Ridgers is fit again following knee surgery.
Jamie Walker drops out after undergoing surgery on a broken foot, while fellow midfielder Jason Holt is three to four weeks away from returning from the same injury, leaving manager Gary Locke struggling to fill his bench again.