DYLAN McGOWAN travelled from the other side of the world to play for Hearts, so his frustration and fear over the club possibly being liquidated is perfectly understandable. The young Australian left his native Adelaide shortly after turning 16 to join the Riccarton youth academy. Now 21, he is beginning to impose himself at first-team level and looks a similarly prodigious talent to older brother Ryan.
Baby Gowser – as his sibling calls him – feels he owes Hearts his loyalty after they put faith in him. He put in a dominant performance as a second-half substitute at Inverness last weekend and finally feels he is showcasing his ability after biding his time at youth level.
The prospect of the club being closed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over a £450,000 tax bill left him bewildered. More experienced colleagues within the dressing room offered reassurance.
“It was obviously a concern. We were told not long before everyone else that the St Mirren game [today] could possibly be our last,” he explained. “But the people within the club have been working extremely hard and they were always confident we could get through this.
“It gave the players great hope that we could concentrate all this week on Saturday. All the boys were taken aback when we heard the news. A lot of the older boys had a few words to us younger boys and settled us down. They said all we can do is focus on football and that’s what we’ve done this week. I came over here when I just turned 16 and the club took a huge gamble. They brought me over, gave me my first professional contract, somewhere to live. These are things that you don’t forget easy. They say loyalty is gone in football but I’m more than happy to stay here for a long time to come because of what they’ve done for me. It’s a huge club and if you play every week like Ryan does, he has been called up into the international squad. What more do you want?”
McGowan feels deferring wages due yesterday was the least the Hearts players could do to help the cause, particularly after fans rallied to raise around £250,000 in cash when it was announced that their club may go out of business.
“The fans have been huge this week, getting behind the shares and buying tickets for the upcoming games,” he said. “Within these four walls in the club we have always spoken about football and concentrated on putting on a performance, so we’ll hope to do that this week. We have been taken aback by the response of the fans. You pick up a paper and see how much money they have raised. I was at the auction at Tynecastle the other night.
“The fans are digging deep in tough times. It really humbles you as a player to play for a club this size. When you see the reaction of the fans this week, when you look at how much they’ve put in, deferring our wages was a gesture we could do.
“I think all the boys were happy to do it, though I can’t speak for everyone. A lot of them have a lot more commitments with family and mortgages than me but it was an easy decision for me especially. It’s not a big deal for me, especially for what the club has done for me. It was the least I could have done.”
Hearts will now pay the £450,000 tax bill in instalments through to December 3, which safeguards their immediate future. “We have to be confident a club this size is going to be around. You can’t imagine Scottish football without Hearts,” said McGowan. “Everyone within the club is fighting their hardest and you see the fans putting in a lot of hard-earned money. I’m hopeful the club will be around for a long time to come. Hopefully, now we’re past this (HMRC) hurdle, the club can sustain itself and move on to bigger things.”
McGowan has a burning desire to be part of that. Some more experienced team-mates may move on, though, as part of Hearts’ cost-cutting measures. He doesn’t need to be reminded that his brother might be one of them. Ryan’s contract expires at the end of the season and there has been no agreement on an extension as yet.
“I don’t really want to say publicly that he’s my inspiration,” laughed McGowan. “He has done extremely well in the last season or so. He has become a little bit of a fans’ favourite and he’s got himself into the international team. You won’t find anyone prouder than me to see what he has achieved in the last 18 months or so.
“It would affect me on a personal level more than a professional level. If he goes, it’s another spot opened up but on a personal level I don’t want to see him go. He’s been here since I’ve been here and we’ve lived together the whole time. We’re brothers and if he moves it’s not going to be easy. He’s got to do what’s best for him, whether that’s staying at Tynecastle or moving.
“My dad especially really likes when we both play at the same time. My mum could not really tell you too much about football. But as long as we both look good my mum is happy – as long as we’re well kept. They are hugely proud to watch us both play. We both dreamed of doing that when we were younger. We played in the same teams growing up, but to do it at this level is huge. I think we’re good together on the pitch. It’s good for us and the club.
“I have not played 90 minutes in total with my sub appearances. I’m under no illusions about how hard it’s going to be to break into this team with the players that we’ve got. Right now, I’m happy playing my role, whether it’s off the bench or starting. The fact that a lot of players could leave in January opens the door for young players. We beat Motherwell the other night 4-2 and you see people like Jamie Walker and Gordon Smith scoring goals. The future is going to be bright no matter what happens.”