New transfer markets open to Hearts with fees paid for players

Hearts’ ability to pay transfer fees for players is opening up new markets for the club as they aim to continue prospering over the months and years ahead.

Manager Robbie Neilson attributes the financial growth to fans’ dedication and benefactor generosity, amounting to several million pounds in income each year. That has helped him and sporting director Joe Savage venture into different foreign leagues to scout players rather than being restricted to more local free agents.

Yutaro Oda’s transfer from Vissel Kobe cost Hearts a six-figure development fee this week for a Japanese Under-21 international forward. Tynecastle officials have also submitted two offers to Sheffield Wednesday in an attempt to bring the versatile Callum Paterson back to Edinburgh, although a deal has yet to be agreed. Defender James Hill arrived on loan from Bournemouth and paperwork to finalise striker Garang Kuol’s loan from Newcastle United should be in place by Friday.

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Over the past 12 months, Hearts have paid six-figure transfer fees for Oda, striker Lawrence Shankland, midfielders Orestis Kiomourtzoglou and Jorge Grant, plus defenders Nathaniel Atkinson, Toby Sibbick, Kye Rowles and Alex Cochrane. Their ability to flex even a small amount of monetary muscle is making a significant difference to the first-team squad at Riccarton.

“That’s come from Foundation of Hearts with fans putting their money in, and also from benefactors,” Neilson explained to the Evening News. “The fanbase have backed us and turned up in their numbers. We have sold out just about every game this season. With that comes a financial gain for the football department, which means we get better players, which means we can continue to progress going forward.

“That’s the key thing for us. I said right at the start of this season that it’s about trying to secure third place again having had to deal with European group-stage football earlier this season. If we can do that, it gives us a chance to build again for next year.”

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Asian and Australian markets hold particular appeal. Oda’s arrival from Japan follows those of Cammy Devlin, Atkinson and Rowles from Australia in the last 18 months. “We look everywhere,” said Neilson. “We look over in America and in Europe at some of the smaller markets we can afford. The Asian and Australian markets are ones we look at and no doubt there will potentially be more players coming in from there. The fees we are looking at, even from Australia and Japan, aren’t huge. You are getting decent value.”

Oda and Hill will be available for debuts in Friday’s Premiership match with St Mirren. Likewise Kuol if registered in time. Neilson stressed patience is needed with new signings, particularly the Japanese. “Oda can play anywhere across the front – striker, No.10, out wide, in the pocket. So far, he looks very sharp and quick, works hard, presses really well and technically he looks good. All the positives are there,” said the manager.

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Hearts chief executive Andrew McKinlay, chairwoman Ann Budge and sporting director Joe Savage.

“I’m sure the fans will understand he hasn’t trained or played since the end of November. He’s had six weeks of nothing other than a bit of work by himself. His fitness levels need to come, plus this is a different culture and different language for him. It might take a bit of time.

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“He’s in a hotel just now but he already has an apartment and a car lined up. A number of Japanese people are helping out him settle quickly. I don’t think it will be a huge problem.”