Gary Mackay: Situation critical as travails of the Hearts impact play

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I THINK, if ever there was any doubt, it is now clear that the endless off-field issues at Hearts just now are having a negative effect on the park.

I spoke last week about looking ahead and trying to go on a wee run before Christmas. However, given the current unsettling predicament Hearts are in, where we don’t how things are going to pan out over the coming weeks and months, I should have known better than to go looking too far ahead.

If we were judging Saturday’s performance against St Johnstone in a normal context I would say it simply wasn’t good enough against a side on a far lower budget than us. But the harsh reality surrounding my club at the moment means every negative aspect of the players’ performances can currently be explained and countered by the ongoing off-field issues. I try to put myself in the players’ position and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for them to be worrying about financial issues as well as what the future holds for them beyond January.

The whole situation they are being faced with is just absurd and I’ve got grave concerns for the future of Hearts. We’re at a huge crossroads with regards to where the club is going. We’ve now got somebody who runs the Youth Academy being put in charge of all contractual negotiations – what a nonsense.

We’re supposed to be the third biggest club in Scotland – the people in charge have to start treating it as such. We’re completely lacking professionalism at the top end.

With regards to the pay issue, I would expect that would resolve itself in January if and when players are sold on as we seem likely to get rid of most of our bigger earners. I think most players at the football club would willingly leave the club right now given the instability but if we do get rid of all our more experienced players, that surely makes us less attractive to any potential investors. I just don’t see what the end-game is for the club.

Heart of Midlothian is such a proud institution with really passionate supporters and they also have players, such as Rudi Skacel, who have developed a genuine affinity for the club. However, we are in desperate need of people in charge of the running of the club who feel the same.

The media ban is just ridiculous. They say they’re not talking but then we have statements coming out telling us we’re going to go down a certain route, moving senior players on and giving youth a chance. If it suits them to tell us that, they should open up and be more transparent over every other aspect of the club rather than just giving out snippets of information to try and paint their own positive picture when there’s clearly so much negativity surrounding the club.

Amid our recent on-field slump, there seems to be murmurs of discontent from some supporters about the job the manager is doing – I am certainly not among that group. Paulo Sergio is in as unfortunate a position as any Hearts manager in my lifetime. Since he’s taken on the job, he’s not been able to bring in any of his own players to manipulate the squad to his liking and is now going to be told by others who can and can’t stay in January. He’s also got the job of trying to keep an unhappy group of players motivated when morale is obviously low.

I have huge respect for what he was trying to do initially in terms of instilling a patient passing game and I have huge respect for the fact he realised it wasn’t working and changed the system and personnel. It worked at first when we beat Dunfermline and Celtic back-to-back but since all the off-field stuff came to the fore, the players have definitely been affected and it’s understandably had a negative effect on the pitch.

People will say he was naive taking the job on but he couldn’t have forecast what was going to lie ahead. I have the utmost sympathy for the management team, and, in particular, Gary Locke, who has the club at heart.

When somebody makes the noises that Mr Romanov has made about losing interest in the club, we, as a club and group of supporters, are effectively just becoming a toy that’s been tossed out his pram.