Anthony Brown: Rudi Skacel would bring X Factor back to Hearts

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HEARTS, languishing ninth in the SPL with nine points from nine games, are in desperate need of a goal-scoring No. 9.

They can stop short of making a 999 call, however, if they do what appears to be the logical thing and seize the lifeline offered to them by Rudi Skacel’s return to Riccarton to use the facilities.

Skacel may not be a No. 9, but he’s the closest alternative to a guarantee of goals, and would ease the burden on those in a largely unsuccessful attack.

Hearts fans are in need of a lift and the team is crying out for both goals and a talisman. In one fell swoop, re-signing the Czech would solve all three issues. Publicly, the club claim the legendary two-time Scottish Cup winner is back merely to keep himself ticking over, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that there is more than an outsider’s chance of the Czech signing up for a third spell at his spiritual home.

Indeed, it is understood that there is a genuine desire on both sides for one of the most feted players in the club’s history to return. Skacel was on the verge of coming back to Hearts last month before a last-ditch snag occurred at a time when some of their players hadn’t been paid on time.

Skacel, below, had got Hearts fans’ juices flowing when he tweeted on September 22 that: “The season starts for me next week! More than Ready!”

But just two days later, Rudi’s Twitter feed provided the deflating lament for Jambos: “Thank u for all the msgs from Hearts fans-you r the best but unfortunately I may not have good news for u but wherever I go 51 shirt it is.”

As it transpires, there could yet be a maroon jersey adorned with the No.  51 in honour of last season’s Scottish Cup triumph in the not-too-distant future. A deal is in the offing once a few stumbling blocks are overcome, but, given Hearts’ unpredictable tendencies, whether or not it comes to pass is another matter entirely. If it doesn’t happen, Hearts will have missed a trick.

While the club’s cost-cutting efforts must be respected and applauded in light of their worrying debt levels, Skacel’s return would make sense on many levels. He knows the club so would require little in the way of a settling-in period. Fitness-permitting, he would be expected to hit the ground running and that is the type of footballer Hearts need at the moment, with so many young players trying – and, at times, struggling – to cope with the jump to first team. Nurturing youngsters is a gradual process and, invariably, results and performances suffer. This in turn impacts on the enjoyment of the paying supporters, the lifeblood of a club.

While many Hearts fans have been tolerant of the club’s new direction, it is inevitable that some will be turned off by the lack of inspiration at the top end of the pitch. With David Templeton also gone, there is no-one left to get the Hearts fans on the edge of their seats. It goes without saying that the return of Skacel would help revive the interest of any fans who were swithering over attending Tynecastle regularly.

More fans in the stadium equates to more money for the club. In the case of Skacel, it would also lead to a rise in strip sales, especially if he goes through with his promise to wear the No.  51 jersey. On the pitch, he could be the difference in ensuring Hearts qualify for Europe and get the chance of more money-spinning ties.

He could also be the difference between a young talent prospering in a harmonious environment and then moving on for a big fee, as opposed to becoming down-trodden in a side which, right now, lies in the bottom six.

To see the positive effect of a youngster playing in a vibrant team, one only needs to look at the improved form of Hibs’ David Wotherspoon, who has flourished this year in a stable environment.

Of course, now 33, Skacel is no spring chicken, and, should he return, he would almost be expected to carry a Hearts team which is some way short of the quality he will have been used to in his two previous spells at the club. Nonetheless, he has never been reliant on speed across the ground. It is his majestic shooting technique allied to an ability to be in the right place at the right time which has served Skacel so well in his previous two spells at the club. He is not a superstar. Indeed there have been countless games where the Czech has done little of note, but then pops up with a vital strike and goes home the hero. He has that X-factor that Hearts are crying out for.

On and off the pitch, Skacel can help get them on the front foot. If anyone is worth pushing the boat out for, it’s him. Another Tynecastle return looks a no-brainer.