Dylan Bikey rejected Hibs’ advances to sign amateur terms with Hearts. Consequently, he is relying on money sent from family in France to survive. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
The 22-year-old forward is effectively on a four-month trial at Tynecastle hoping to earn a professional deal by the summer. Hearts officials managed to circumvent paying more than £40,000 compensation to his former club, FC Dieppe, by signing him as an amateur player from Stirling Albion last month.
Bikey is content to live without wages if it facilitates his lifelong dream of a pro contract in time. His mother, father and brother back home in France are supplementing that ambition.
He arrived in Scotland last June and joined Stirling as an amateur. Nine goals in nine games earned a trial at Hibs, who wanted him to sign before he took a head-turning phonecall from the other side of Edinburgh.
He finally made his Hearts debut as a substitute against Partick Thistle on Saturday. The 2-0 defeat left him frustrated but he is content to keep the bigger picture in focus. For Bikey, who is pressing to start against Ross County tonight, it is potentially the next step on the journey to professionalism.
“I’m amateur because I played for many clubs before,” he explained in an exclusive Evening News interview. “I played for FC Nantes and FC Dieppe. I was with Nantes for many years and I was with Dieppe for one year, so there is compensation to be paid.
“Hearts will speak with Nantes and Dieppe about my compensation and we will see at the end of the season if I can sign professional or not for next season. I have four months to prove myself, four months to work and to score if I play. I will play and I hope I can sign my first professional contract with Hearts for next year. The club have the choice over me.”
He maintained he had no qualms about turning down Hibs to join their fiercest rivals. “I trained with Hibs for two days, the Monday and the Tuesday,” said the Frenchman. “Then Hearts called my agent and they met me on the Tuesday. I spoke with them and they told me they had a good project for me. They had ambition for me.
“I had the choice and I chose Hearts. This was my preference. I never told Hibs I would sign. I only trained there, that’s all. Hibs asked me to sign and I wanted time to make my choice. Then Hearts called me. I saw the two projects, the Hibs project and the Hearts project, and I preferred the Hearts one.
“Now I am a Hearts player and I am happy to be with my new club. I hope to play with the Hearts first team as much as possible and score many goals for this club.”
Working full-time and putting in so much effort for no financial reward wouldn’t appeal to most footballers. Bikey is humble enough to accept he must continue striving for whatever might come his way. In the meantime, he is fortunate enough to have vital family support.
He admitted he would find it difficult to survive without money from back home. “Yes, amateur is not a good contract. Nobody who is an amateur has money,” he smirked. “I’m thankful to my parents, who send me money each month from France. My mum, my dad and my brother will send me money for these four months so that I can live like this. It’s not easy.”
The pertinent question is: What happens if Hearts decide not to pay the compensation and decide against keeping him? Other clubs are monitoring the situation and could move in, but that development fee will remain off-putting.
“If I don’t sign professional with Hearts, maybe I can stay here with another club. Maybe I will go back to France or perhaps to England. I will see.”
Bikey made his reputation at Stirling as a striker with blinding pace and raw talent. He caught the eye of several bigger clubs aside from Hibs and Hearts. He clearly harbours much potential and is determined to realise it in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Hearts’ recent difficulties haven’t made it easy for him to showcase his talents. Defeat by Hibs in the Scottish Cup last week preceded the defeat at Firhill, creating an air of depression in the skies above Gorgie.
“I was only a little bit happy on Saturday because it was my debut but we didn’t win. We lost last Wednesday and we lost on Saturday. I’m happy because it was my debut in the Premiership in Scotland but I’m not happy that we didn’t win,” said Bikey, who has a good command of English.
Esmael Goncalves’ red card in Glasgow earned him an automatic one-match suspension and creates a void up front this evening. Bjorn Johnsen is nursing a hamstring injury, leaving Bikey and 19-year-old Rory Currie as the only fully-fit strikers available to Hearts coach Ian Cathro.
“I wanted this chance. Every day I hoped I could play at a club like Hearts,” said Bikey. “We have four strikers – Currie, Johnsen and Isma. I am last. I work every day to get the chance to play. On Saturday, I played 35 minutes. It’s my beginning and I hope to continue now.
“It’s not the same style of play in the top league. This is the next level. I’m happy to be here with Hearts, they are a big team and a big club. I will try to continue to work. I will score for this team, although it’s not easy. It’s more difficult than League Two but I will work every day for Hearts.”