RYAN STEVENSON today explained why he had to walk out on Hearts as he revealed the health of his unborn child was being put at risk by the stress of delayed wages at Tynecastle.
The midfielder admitted he is terrified of how Vladimir Romanov, the club’s majority shareholder, will react, but insisted he felt more of a man standing up for himself.
Stevenson informed Hearts on Wednesday that he would not be training or playing for them again until December’s salary was paid. October’s wages were 19 days late while November’s took a full month to arrive.
Stevenson conceded he simply had to leave despite his contract running until June. “After everything that’s been going on over the past three or four months I feel as if this was always going to be the only outcome,” he said. “I don’t feel as if I have been left with any other option than to say, ‘Right, I’ve had enough’.
“What they have been doing to us is simply not right and if it was happening in any other walk of life, then people would kick up a stink about it.
“I made this decision about two or three weeks ago. Deep down I knew then I was going to do it but I kept putting it off because I was worried about what it might do to my reputation in the game.
“But my wife is pregnant and she had a small bad turn with the baby. I took her into the hospital to have everything checked out. We had a scan and the first thing the doctor asked me was, ‘Has she been under any undue stress or working too hard?’
“I looked at her face, I saw her looking at me, and I knew right then what I had to do. There comes a point in every man’s life when he needs to stand up for what he believes in. I am a husband and now I’m going to be a dad. I have to stand up for what I believe is right. Quite simply, I believe what Hearts are doing to us is not right.
“So when I spoke to the manager yesterday I made my feelings clear. I told him the best outcome is for the club to either release me from my contract or agree to sell me if they get a bid. Either way I want out.
“We’re now being told we’re not going to be paid until the middle of January at the earliest, maybe even February. I’m not going to allow myself to be treated like this any longer.”
Stevenson is concerned at the prospect of being frozen out of football until his Hearts contract expires. “It’s not a leap of faith,” he continued. “I haven’t done this with one eye on what comes next. The truth is, I’m not even bothered. That’s why I didn’t speak to my agent because I didn’t want to be seen as someone trying to make the most of this bad situation. I just wanted out of it.
“What comes next? Hand on heart I don’t have a clue. At the moment I have nothing up my sleeve and as far as I know my agent hasn’t heard from anyone. I don’t even know how the legal situation is going to develop. There is a chance I could be frozen out of the game until my contract is up.
“I realise some people in football might now look at me as a bad apple because I have chosen to act in this way. That thought scares me to death – I don’t want to be seen as a troublemaker. It could kill my chances of a move.
“Also, I know the owner could say, ‘F*** him. Let him rot.’ But if he wants to do that then that’s fine. At least I can look myself in the mirror. I have to take a stand. I have to stick to my principles. I have to be a man.
“Yes, I’m scared of the situation I’m in and how it could affect my career. But this is about more than just football – this is about being a man – and I feel as if I have done the right thing.”