“My heart’s pumping,” said Walter Kidd after being asked by the MC at last night’s Foundation of Hearts question-and-answer session whether he thought his club would survive their grave predicament.
A boyhood Hearts fan who spent 17 years with the club as a player and then a coach, The man nicknamed “Zico” was evidently a touch emotional as he turned out to support the fans group at the end of one of the grimmest weeks in the club’s history.
The 55-year-old wasn’t the only one in the Gorgie Suite who’d been through the wringer, as more than 300 anxious fans turned out to try and find out if the Foundation really can emerge as the saviour of Hearts.
These embattled souls needed an olive branch at the end of a trying week. A week which had led MC Willie Hunter to start the night by declaring in no uncertain terms that “there has never been a more critical time in the history of Hearts.”
The supporters, many still sceptical of the Foundation’s credentials to push for fan ownership of their club, needed reassurance that this is a group worth placing their faith and money in. And, in the shape of a solid, passionate and convincing display from the men who fronted last night’s meeting, they got it. Passion and hard work alone won’t be enough to dig Hearts out of this hole, but early indications are that the group, spearheaded by the increasingly impressive Ian Murray MP, would certainly have the nous to look after the club in a far more responsible manner than those who have taken Hearts towards the abyss.
Before Murray took the microphone to field over an hour’s worth of searching questions from fans, Gary Mackay, the club’s record appearance holder and firm backer of the Foundation, was up on the stage speaking from the heart. He took a swipe at the current regime by denouncing the tone of Thursday’s statement in which it was widely implied that they were shifting the blame for the club’s financial problems on to fans for “hesitating” to buy season-tickets. “The people who aligned themselves with the statement should be absolutely disgusted,” roared Mackay to loud applause.
In stark contrast, the Hearts icon had nothing but effusive praise for the Foundation’s committee, insisting he’d “trust every single one of them with his life”. He sat with the Evening News after the event had finished and waxed lyrical about the knowledge possessed by people like Murray, Ann Budge, Iain MacLeod, Brian Cormack and Alex Mackie.
It was easy to see why, particularly in the case of Murray, who came through his grilling in a sure-footed manner. Indeed, such was the impression he made on supporters last night, one fan stood up and instead of asking a question, told the hall that he thought Murray was more assured and knowledgeable than anyone else he’d seen in power at Tynecastle and that he would love to see him in control of his club. There were some questions Murray admitted he wasn’t in a position to answer, and some – mostly finance-related – he was reluctant to answer in public, but, by and large, honesty, transparency and knowledge of Hearts’ current situation shone through. He showed his decisive side by declaring that fans’ pledges would not be used to help the current regime make up its current financial shortfall unless it was to help smooth any takeover bid, and he was open enough to concede that, while he doesn’t want to see it happen, Hearts entering administration would make any takeover that bit easier. There was no arrogance and no bold promises, but plenty confidence that the Foundation are not wasting their time in pursuing ownership of the club they love.
As they were keen to emphasise throughout the night, fans can pledge “as little as £10; less than three pints a month” to help ensure brighter days lie ahead for their club. “Heart of Midlothian or three pints a month?” MacLeod, the Save Our Hearts representative on the Foundation, asked the audience. On last night’s evidence, this group of bona fide Hearts fans with a wide range of business expertise certainly don’t look the sort who would drive supporters to drink if they eventually get their hands on the keys to Tynecastle.