RELIEVED Hearts boss Gary Locke today expressed his delight that Jason Holt remains a Hearts player after the English transfer window closed without the 20-year-old moving south.
Nottingham Forest had two bids rejected for the midfielder, but none of them matched the valuation placed on the Scotland Under-21 international by Hearts’ administrators BDO.
Tynecastle officials feared a late offer by Forest on transfer deadline day could deprive them of Holt with no chance of a replacement, for they are unable to sign players whilst in administration. However, England’s transfer window shut at 11pm last night with Holt still in Edinburgh.
“Thank God he’s staying, it’s massive for us,” Locke told the Evening News. “We can’t afford to lose any more players. We don’t have a big squad and you saw that on Saturday by our subs. Not being disrespectful to the boys who were on the bench but some of them are a million miles away from playing in the first team.
“At the same time, they’ve done well with the under-20s and they merited travelling with the squad. It would be a huge ask to put them on the pitch. Jason knows the situation. He came in and spoke to us with his agent. It needs to be an acceptable offer, that’s the thing. We aren’t just going to let all our players leave here. If they are going to leave, it will have to be for the right price. We certainly aren’t in a position at the moment where we can lose any players.
“The best ones, you want to keep. Jason certainly comes into that category. This is really his first full season in the top flight and he’s playing well enough at the moment. If he plays like that for the remainder of the season, I would imagine he’ll attract more interest. That’s great for him and it’s great for the club. However, at this stage of his development, I think he’s better playing first-team football.”
Locke outlined his belief that Holt is better served staying at Hearts, where a whole host of young players are gaining first-team experience.
“That’s a question you need to ask Jason. We try to give the boys good advice and the advice I would give any young player at Hearts is what an opportunity this is to play first-team football. Some of them are playing before they probably should be but it’s a fantastic opportunity and, if they take it, then it’s great for them.
“You just need to look at big Brad McKay. He openly said that if we still had a centre-back pairing of Webster and Zaliukas, he would’ve had to wait for his opportunity. Now Brad’s been thrown in at the deep end and I think he’s handled it magnificently. That can only be a bonus for all the other young players at the club.”
Hearts, meanwhile, yesterday lodged an appeal against Jamie Hamill’s red card against Inverness on Saturday. Referee John Beaton dismissed the defender for deliberate handball inside the penalty area, however replays of the incident clearly show the ball hitting his head.
Although Beaton is believed to have admitted the mistake privately, once his report is submitted to the Scottish Football Association then the only way the red card can be rescinded is by an official appeal. Locke is confident of having the decision overturned to ensure Hamill is available to face Celtic on Saturday week.
“You’ve got to appeal that,” he explained. “Television pictures clearly show the ball hit him on the face, and you could see that by Jamie’s reaction at the game as well. I think common sense will prevail and it will be rescinded and he’ll be available for the Celtic game.”