KEVIN McHATTIE and Gary Oliver left Hearts last night to join Kilmarnock and Queen of the South respectively. Both players want regular first-team football and took the chance to leave Tynecastle before the transfer window closed.
The final year of their respective contracts was cancelled by mutual consent. McHattie immediately signed a three-year deal at Rugby Park, whilst Oliver agreed a contract until the end of the season in Dumfries.
The pair have largely been on the substitutes’ bench since the new season started. Hearts officials were keen not to stand in their way as they tried to secure more game time.
McHattie had made only one league appearance this season following the arrival of the Nigerian international left-back Juwon Oshaniwa. He decided a move was the best option for his career and chose to rejoin his former manager, Gary Locke, in Ayrshire.
“I am delighted to have signed for Killie and I can’t wait to get playing first-team football,” he said. “I have worked with the manager before and after I spoke to Dale (Carrick) I was certain this was the right move for me. There is a big challenge ahead for me and the club and I am looking forward to getting started.”
McHattie admitted it was still a wrench to leave Hearts, where he had spent the last five years after arriving from Dunfermline in 2010. “I’ve loved every minute, it’s been fantastic,” said the 22-year-old. “I’ll leave with some great memories, not least winning the title last year. I’ll miss the place, no doubt about that.
“It’s time for a new challenge now and I’m looking forward to getting first-team football. But for now I’d like to take the chance to thank the staff, my team-mates and the fans for all their support.”
Locke believes signing McHattie represents a real coup. “I am pleased to have secured Kevin for Kilmarnock,” he said. “He is a very talented young left-back and we had to fight off competition from some really big clubs to sign him.”
McHattie is not eligible to play for Kilmarnock against his old Hearts team-mates in the League Cup later this month. He is cup-tied having played for the Edinburgh club earlier in the competition. The third round tie has been confirmed as a 7.45pm kick-off at Rugby Park on Wednesday, September 23.
Meanwhile, Hearts will now attempt to replenish their squad with McHattie and Oliver gone and Kenny Anderson surplus to requirements. Head coach Robbie Neilson will assess a list of free agents who are available to sign outwith the transfer window.