Gary Mackay: Why Jim Jefferies' departure from Hearts is a concern
The new season is almost upon us so we can finally get back to what matters most in football – on-field performances and results.
For Hearts, seldom have those issues been more prominent than right now. It has been a tough few seasons watching the team, although we are finally back in the top flight of Scottish football.
It’s been a really interesting summer from a Hearts supporter’s perspective. There has been a lot going on off the pitch and I don’t think we can afford to take our eyes off that even as the action gets back underway on it at Peterhead this weekend.
John Murray, the chief scout, retiring should have happened many years ago to be perfectly honest. That it didn’t was another sign of ineptitude within the football club.
Now you have someone with a real depth of feeling for Heart of Midlothian Football Club leaving in the shape of Jim Jefferies. Because of his love for football, Jim was doing a job for Edinburgh City before he came back to Hearts last year, which sums up his lack of ego.
We have an opportunity to keep someone like that involved with the board but it looks like that hasn’t happened. So we now go back to decisions being taken by people who have already shown their ineptitude.
It baffles me. From my perspective as a Hearts supporter, it’s concerning. If other Hearts supporters aren’t concerned, then that also worries me. Does that mean we are just accepting of things happening within our football club?
I’m repeating myself here but I think this is a point worth repeating: Sky lounges are great, restaurants and delicious food are great, venues for hosting events are great. These things are wonderful but they won’t matter come July 31 against Celtic. That is what the football club will be judged on once again.
I’m not fussed about what Jim Jefferies or Ann Budge felt regarding this decision. I believe the club hierarchy should have said to Jim: ‘We would like you there because we need guidance.’ It has been proven that good decisions too often haven’t been made by those at the top in recent years.
If it’s only one board meeting a month and a game on a Saturday for Jim, then so be it. He should still have a role at Tynecastle regardless of who else might be coming in and what position they might be in. I believe that 100 per cent.
It might be paranoia on my part, but from having an idea about how different people work, maybe Ann Budge already has somebody she speaks to about football things. I’m only second-guessing, but maybe Jim has just thought: ‘I don’t want to align myself with this.’ If that’s the reason, then I would become even more worried.
Jim Jefferies doesn't want to be the front of anything. He just wants the best for Hearts. I don’t even know if he was being paid for what he did but he would go to every Hearts game for nothing and he would attend board meetings for nothing. Now we’re losing out on his experience.
Joe Savage is there as sporting director and there should be someone coming in to replace John Murray in time. As I said, there might be someone guiding the board. Robbie Neilson and Gordon Forrest know a bit about the values at Hearts, and obviously Gary Locke is in there as an ambassador.
However, Jim knows what Hearts means to the fans and he knows how to support the board. I remember as a player when we lost 6-0 at Falkirk and had to make a decision overnight on Joe Jordan. Then we lost 5-0 at Livingston and Craig Levein should have been removed, but the club let it continue and it got to where it got to with Craig.
Everybody will know at Hearts about what the expectations are now. Because of the Alloa and Brora Rangers results last season, we need to hit the ground running this year on the field.
The pre-season friendlies have been picked well because you want to get fitness levels up and put some decent results together. Players need the opportunity to hone their fitness but also gain confidence at the same time. So far, that has gone to plan.
I have no qualms at all about Loic Damour being given an opportunity in midfield this season because I believe he is a decent football player. There will need to be a balance to the side to allow him to play in the manner he does in the Premiership, but that’s what having a pre-season is all about.
Robbie seems to have made that decision and he will believe that’s the best thing for the football team. He will know there has to be a huge desire to start the season positively and that desire will be increased because of the demands from fans who have continued to support this club remarkably well.
The numbers through Foundation of Hearts and season ticket sales are fantastic. That’s despite decisions not being made until it’s too late, and decisions kicking you in the face.
I think we have lost an opportunity – maybe though Jim Jefferies’ choice, but there is no doubt his absence is a big loss and I for one am very disappointed to see him go.