JASON HOLT has revealed that the Hearts players are itching to put the club’s off-field troubles behind them and get back to playing football again.
The Tynecastle side head to Manchester tonight to take on Dinamo Bucharest in the first of their pre-season friendly matches and, for the playing staff at least, it will be a relief to have the ball back at their feet again.
The first-team game against the Romanians – who have been training in Leeds – will be Hearts’ first since they were plunged into administration almost three weeks ago.
The match will take place at the Leigh Sports Village, home of Leigh Centurions, and the trip south was only given the green light thanks to the generosity of Edinburgh businessman Charlie Irons who is laying on return coach travel for the Hearts team free of charge.
The match against Bucharest is one of five fixtures Hearts have lined-up before the start of the new SPFL campaign – Dunfermline, Raith Rovers and a further two games in the Ballymena tournament hosted by Crusaders being the others – and Holt is raring to go.
Bucharest will provide a tough test for them tonight but, with a 15-point disadvantage and a skeletal squad on the books right now, Hearts will have even more hurdles to overcome when the new SPFL season gets underway for real next month.
Midfielder Holt, though, is looking forward to he challenge that lie ahead and he said: “I think that we need to leave everything else to the people who deal with that behind the scenes. My job is to play football and I will concentrate on continuing to do that.
“There are not many players left and it’s a close-knit group so we’re all looking forward to hopefully putting this situation behind us.
“We all know that it is a massive challenge, but we firmly believe that we can get out of the situation.
“We’ve got to stay positive, that is all that we can do at the moment. It would help a lot if we got a quick start and a few wins under our belts.”
Holt is one of Hearts’ most saleable assets, although club administrators have insisted that the cuts which have already been made are sufficient enough to mean that Hearts boss Gary Locke will not be forced into moving any more of his stars on.
Locke’s options are certainly limited following the process of administration and the cost-cutting measures put in places in previous seasons.
He has around 17 players available to him to make up a first-team and bench – and still has to find enough players to make up an Under-20s side.
While Locke conceded that he would love to have more players available he insisted that he and his team have no other option than to get on with it and try to make the best of a bad situation this season.
The Jambos know that they will start the league campaign with that sizeable deduction, meted out because were plunged into administration, so they will be up against it before a ball as even been kicked.
Locke said: “It is going to be a young side, that much is obvious, but we have got a really close-knit group of players here and I think that will work in our favour.”
“We have got a lot of young players but they are full of confidence and enthusiasm and when you have got those things, you have always got a chance.”
Locke last week opted to hand Danny Wilson the captain’s armband but the Hearts manager insists that he will need each and every one of his young squad to play a captain’s role next season.
Last term the younger members of the Hearts squad had the likes of Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas to look to for help and experience but, this time around Locke will have to count on the exuberance of youth to haul his side through.
“A few people came to mind when I was looking at who would be our captain this season,” Locke said. “Jamie MacDonald was in there but I prefer to have an outfield player in that kind of role.
“Ryan Stevenson and Jamie Hamill were others but, for me, Danny ticks all of the boxes.
“He is a good organiser and a good talker. For one so young, he has got a lot of experience, he has played in Scotland, England, in the Champions League and for the national side.
“He has made a lot of sacrifices to make sure that he is back here playing for this club again this season and he has shown how much it means to him.
“I said to the lads that although Danny is going to be the club captain that we are going to need everyone to play like a captain and act like a captain because of the challenges that we are going to face over the next few months.”