Ryan Stevenson signs three-year deal in unexpected return to Hearts

Ryan Stevenson has returned to Hearts
Ryan Stevenson has returned to Hearts
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JOHN McGlynn is confident that Ryan Stevenson can forget about the troubled end to his initial spell with Hearts and make a success of his return.

• Ipswich Town waived fee for 27-year-old

• Player quit Tynecastle in January

Stevenson, who left Tynecastle for Ipswich at the start of this year following a dispute over unpaid wages, rejoined from the East Anglian club yesterday on a three-year contract.

McGlynn, who succeeded Paulo Sergio as manager in the summer, was at Raith Rovers when Stevenson left Hearts in January. But he has worked with the 28-year-old, and said he was sure his ability would make him a useful addition to the squad.

“He’s very versatile, which is a big help,” said the manager. “I knew Ryan as a boy when he was at Hearts before he went to Chelsea, and then when he was at Ayr I was at Raith Rovers so I came across him on a number of occasions.

“He was always a player you wanted to make sure was closely marked. By all accounts he did very well when he was at Hearts. He’s technically a good player, he scores goals, he’s strong and he’s good in the dressing room, so he ticks all the boxes for me.”

Signed from Ayr by Jim Jefferies early in 2010, Stevenson quickly made an impact at Hearts, and won a reputation as a hard-working professional who would apply himself with the same complete commitment no matter what position he was played in. He deputised well for injured striker Kevin Kyle during the early months of 2011, and towards the end of that year was called into a Scotland squad for the first time.

However, by then his relations with his employers had turned sour. When the club failed to pay staff salaries on time, most of Stevenson’s colleagues took collective advice from their union and continued to play while the problem was being addressed, but he refused to take the field, saying the stress on his pregnant wife was making the situation intolerable for him.

When he left for Ipswich for £50,000 at the end of January this year, it was seen as the ideal solution for both the player and Hearts, and it looked as if he had burned his bridges so thoroughly that neither party would even dream of being reunited. But yesterday, after also being linked with Motherwell, Stevenson re-signed at Tynecastle, joining Rudi Skacel and Andy Webster, among others in recent seasons, in going back to the club after departing under a cloud.

“I’m excited at the prospect of returning to the club,” he said after completing a medical. “Naturally, the circumstances of my previous departure might have made this move seem unlikely, but I want to assure everyone that I am only focused on playing and winning with Hearts. I am delighted to be here.”

Although he joined Ipswich on an 18-month contract, Stevenson made only 11 appearances for the English club. He can expect to be used more regularly by Hearts, whose squad is significantly smaller than it was when he was last there, and McGlynn does not foresee his return being problematic.

“He did very well for Hearts and it wasn’t a great situation at that time, to be fair,” the manager said. “He stood up for himself and others. If you weren’t getting paid you might have the same reaction to a certain extent.

“It’s one that we put behind us and look for Ryan to come in and do a job. If he does that, the past will be quickly forgotten.” In recent matches McGlynn has fielded a 4-4-1-1 formation, with wingers David Templeton and Andrew Driver playing behind lone target man John Sutton. Stevenson looks far more suited to that supporting role, and should go straight into the squad for tomorrow’s game at home to Dundee.