HEARTS manager Gary Locke is resigned to being unable to sign any new players this season as the administration process drags on at Tynecastle.
A strict registration embargo on the club will remain until they can exit administration, which should be next spring, and Locke believes that will be too late for any kind of recruitment drive.
The January transfer window will come and go with Hearts prevented from signing anyone. They will be unable to move out of administration until after a creditors’ meeting at insolvent Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG) in late January. The process could still take several weeks thereafter, leaving only free agents available to Locke as the season draws to a close.
Hearts could sign under-21 players during January if they exit administration in time, but that is not possible without UBIG’s 50 per cent shareholing being passed to the fans’ umbrella group, Foundation of Hearts. That can only happen after the Lithuanian company’s creditors’ meeting.
Locke admitted today he is preparing to end the season with the young and threadbare squad he currently has.
“We were all hoping we’d get a chance to strengthen the squad but, the way things are going off the pitch, there’s no chance of that,” he told the Evening News. “The only way we can sign players is if we come out of administration. It was great that the CVA went through last week but there’s still a long process to go through. It’s not going to be quick. By the time we do come out of administration, the transfer window will have come and gone and we won’t be able to sign anyone.
“The timescale for coming out of administration could take the rest of this season. Don’t get me wrong, if we came out of administration and players were available, then great. However, the timescale could be the end of February, March, April – no-one really knows for certain. I’m not so sure any players will be available to sign when there are only a couple of months of the season left.
“I’ve got my head round the fact that we won’t be bringing anybody in. We’ll just have to get right through the season with the squad we’ve got. It would be great to bring in a few fresh faces but the priority is that the club survives. We’re just going to have to get on with the paper-thin squad we’ve got.”
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that goalkeeper Mark Ridgers will undergo surgery on his knee. The Evening News revealed yesterday that Ridgers might need a clean-up operation which will keep him out for around three weeks. “We sent him for a scan and unfortunately he’s going to need a little operation,” said Locke. “Hopefully it’ll not keep him out too long but obviously it’s a blow.”
Hearts’ third-choice goalkeeper, 19-year-old Jack Hamilton, will take Ridgers’ place in the meantime as deputy to Jamie MacDonald.