JAMIE MacDONALD was today backed to become Hearts’ new No.1 goalkeeper with Marian Kello’s exclusion to continue against Celtic tomorrow night.
Tynecastle director Sergejus Fedotovas confirmed Kello has held talks with other clubs about a pre-contract agreement, as revealed in yesterday’s Evening News, and his lack of commitment means he remains frozen out of the first team.
Kello has also admitted he will not discuss a contract extension with Hearts and plans to leave the club when his existing deal expires on June 30.
Janos Balogh, the Hungarian goalkeeper who left Hearts in December, expects MacDonald to establish himself as the undisputed first choice at Tynecastle after signing a new contract last month.
“I was training with Jamie for three-and-a-half years and he is a really good goalkeeper,” said Balogh. “He is going to be fine because he is good enough to play for Hearts. Later, when more young players come through, he can be a leader for them.
“Jamie is from Scotland and he grew up there all his life. I can understand why he wants to stay there. His family and friends are there so it was a good decision from him to sign his contract and stay with Hearts.”
Fedotovas and other club officials are continually trying to resolve the Kello situation. Majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov ordered manager Paulo Sergio not to play Kello in Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round tie with St Johnstone, and he was replaced in goal by MacDonald.
“We have keepers that have extended their contracts with us and some who have not and are negotiating contracts with other clubs,” said the Lithuanian. “I think that all makes an impact on a number of things that are important when you consider who is going to play.
“We are looking for a solution but nothing has been decided. I don’t want to discuss or consider what the best solution for Marian would be at the moment. It’s premature to say anything.
“I am happy (after the transfer window) to the extent that we kept the squad to the level that enables our manager to achieve maximum results for the club. I think the manager is happy to keep most of his players.”
With Celtic due at Tynecastle tomorrow evening, Kello claimed the Glasgow club were interested in signing him before Christmas. “The interest from Celtic was certainly real, but ultimately they did not make a concrete offer,” said the Slovakian. “So I decided to stay a Hearts player for now.
“But I’m not going to negotiate a new contract. I’m leaving on June 30. So I will wait for offers and I am open to different possibilities.
“At the end of the transfer-window period, Austria Vienna showed interest in me. But it ended up not being a successful transfer, because it was a last-minute proposal and I decided not to go. I got into trouble with the club for not completing the transfer.
“The club is for sale. The owner has made that clear. Here you essentially have to look after yourself. The salary gets paid only after a delay. It is a difficult situation.”
Ian Black serves a one-match suspension against Celtic and David Templeton is struggling with an injury sustained against St Johnstone. Andy Driver is poised to deputise. “I’m struggling. As I went to toe-poke a shot away I overstretched a tendon. Hopefully I will be okay for Wednesday,” said Templeton.
Yesterday’s draw for the Scottish Cup quarter-finals paired Hearts or St Johnstone with the winners of the St Mirren/Ross County fifth-round replay. Hearts or St Johnstone will be at home for the match on March 10/11.
• HEARTS teenagers Jack Hamilton, Callum Paterson and Billy King have all been named in the Scotland Under-18 squad for a training camp later this month.