BIG-HEARTED Ryan McGowan insists he had no hesitation in moving to China – as he couldn’t live with the thought of his beloved Hearts getting no money for him.
The Australian defender arrived in the Far East yesterday to begin the latest phase of his career with Shandong Luneng Taishan, who signed him for a fee which is set to amount to around £400,000 including add-ons.
The Tynecastle cult hero, above, gave an exclusive interview to the Evening News in which he reflected on a memorable six years in Edinburgh and explained why he agreed to move China.
With his contract due to expire in the summer, McGowan, who was the Tynecastle club’s most prized asset, would have had far more options to choose from as a free agent.
However, with Hearts currently enduring severe financial difficulties, the 23-year-old, who had fallen in love with the club, was determined to ensure they were suitably recompensed for nurturing him into a full Australian internationalist.
“The fact Hearts were going to get a decent fee for me was a massive part of my thinking,” he said. “I wanted them to get money for me and there were no other clubs out there who would have paid as much for me. Any British clubs that were interested would have just waited till the end of the season to get me for free. I owe so much to Hearts, they’ve developed me, looked after me and given me a platform to earn this move, so I really wanted to make sure they got money for me. As soon as I was told the bid had been accepted, I thought about things and decided I had to go.”
The open-minded McGowan has no qualms about going to China, where he has signed a two-year deal, insisting it is no more radical a move than leaving Australia to move to Scotland as a 16-year-old.
He said: “People will look at it and say: ‘Why’s he going to China?’ but why not? It’s a great chance to broaden my horizons further. When I left Australia at 16 to go to Scotland, people said to me then: ‘Why are you going to Scotland – are you mad? There’s better places than that out there.’
“But that move didn’t work out too bad, did it? A lot of the people questioning the move probably don’t know that much about China. I’m already familiar with that part of the world because Australia play against the Asian teams in the qualifiers and I know that China’s a great place at the moment – there’s so much happening.
“You only have to look at the Olympics [in Beijing in 2008] to see that they know how to do things properly. Their football is developing really well and they’ve got the money to make things happen.
“The facilities and everything like that are excellent. For example, my club have just built a 20,000 stadium for the reserve team. It’s an exciting place to be at the moment and I’m really looking forward to the challenge. It’s a good bit closer to Australia, which is also handy.”