Gunts slated in the Times

PILTONSTANY

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Hearts worse off now than in 2014, warns Allan Preston


April 8 2021, The Times


When Allan Preston says that Hearts are worse off now in a footballing sense that when the club went into administration in 2014, alarm bells should be sounding.


Preston grew up supporting Hearts, played for them and, as a founder member of the fans’ group Foundation of Hearts, contributes monthly to the club by direct debit. He works as a football agent — his clients include Kieran Tierney of Arsenal and Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour — and is also employed by BBC Scotland as a pundit, so he has been well-placed to observe the decline of on-field performances and results (two wins from their past nine outings).


He is only too aware of growing dissatisfaction among the fanbase which has led to demonstrations against the owner Ann Budge and the manager Robbie Neilson, even though Hearts need only five points from their final four fixtures to win the Championship and secure a return to the Premiership at the first time of asking.


They could effectively clinch it this weekend if they beat Alloa Athletic tomorrow night, then Raith Rovers and Dundee fail to win their fixtures on Saturday. Neutrals struggle to find reasons to be fearful when promotion is effectively guaranteed but Preston, below, insists that the problems have been mounting for years and, unless they are addressed in the next few months, Hearts could become a yo-yo club: too strong for the second tier and not good enough for the first.


“In a footballing sense, we’re worse off than we were when the club went into administration in 2014,” he said. “Back then Hearts had young players like Callum Paterson, Jason Holt and Jamie Walker, who could be sold. Now there isn’t a single saleable asset at the club. The last one, [Aaron] Hickey, went to Bologna but 30 per cent of the fee went to Celtic, who had inserted a sell-on clause when he left them.


“Craig Levein [the former director of football and manager] allowed Josh Doig to leave the club because he was behind Hickey and now he [Doig] is turning in great performances for Hibs — and there was no sell-on clause in his deal, even though Levein claims he rated him highly.


“Liam Gordon is another youngster who was released and now he’s a League Cup winner with St Johnstone. Levein says the club’s academy is fantastic but not one teenager has played a single minute in the Championship and not one academy player has made his debut this season.


“Ironically, another batch of new signings are going to be required in the summer because, without major surgery, that squad will be fighting relegation next season. If they’re struggling in the Championship then they’ll be doing even worse in the top tier.


“I don’t blame Robbie Neilson for this, incidentally. His recruitment hasn’t been great but he inherited this mess and deserves to be given time. We’re the third biggest club in the country but Hibs are the third best team because they’re run properly and Jack Ross has got his signings right and not made too many of them. Hibs are good to watch and Hearts aren’t.”


Hearts have won only six of their 15 matches in 2021 and too many somnolent displays have provoked demonstrations by disenfranchised fans.


“Supporters are frustrated because they can’t get into the stadium,” Preston said. “They’re paying a lot of money into the club on top of their season-ticket money and what I’m hearing is that they feel that millions of pounds have been wasted since Ann came in.


“I think she’s done a great job off the field. She prevented us from being liquidated like Huns, we have a new stand, a memorial garden, a museum, a ladies team and the club has done unbelievable work during this pandemic by providing thousands of meals to the needy. Ultimately, though, the club is about the team on the park and that’s not been good enough.


“They’ve made 97 signings during Ann’s time, which is akin to replacing two-thirds of your squad every single season. A lot of [the blame for] that falls at Levein’s door. As director of football, he was responsible for disaster after disaster, with his managerial appointments and transfer dealings.


“The midfielder, Malaury Martin, was signed from Lillestrom on a 3½-year contract but wasn’t good enough and had to be paid off early. Loïc Damour was handed a four-year contract when he joined from Cardiff in 2019 but hasn’t played for the first team for 14 months.


“We had to wait three months to sign Czech striker David Vanecek, who was shown the door with a pay-off after starting four games in five months. The Nigeria left back, Juwon Oshaniwa, was one of the highest earners at Tynecastle but he couldn’t cut it and was paid to leave a year early. That churn means it’s almost impossible to build team spirit. It also explains why kids put Rudi Skacel’s or John Robertson’s names on the back of their shirt — because no-one else hangs around for long enough to make it worthwhile.”


Ups and downs


Since Ann Budge completed her £2.5 million takeover of Hearts in May, 2014 (a deal which removed the club from administration), the Foundation of Hearts group has raised almost £12 million for the club, which includes payments to repay the capital loan from Budge so that they could fund a Company Voluntary Agreement and prevent a descent into liquidation. Benefactor James Anderson has donated £15 million during that period.


The FoH has more than 8,000 members whose direct debits raise £150,000 per month for the club. More than £4.5 million is raised by season-ticket sales; more still from merchandising, hospitality etc.


Hearts have brought 97 players to Tynecastle since Budge’s takeover but recouped transfer fees for only seven of those signings.


Should the club fail to finish third next season, it will match their longest spell outwith the top three in Scotland since 1985.


No teenagers have been used by Hearts in the league this season and no academy graduates have made their debuts, which occurred only once last season and once in 18-19.


This season Hearts have lost to a non-league side — Brora Huns in the Scottish Cup — for the first time since 1900, lost to Alloa Athletic, in the Betfred Cup, for the first time in their history, lost to Queen of the South for the first time since 1963, lost at home to Raith Rovers for the first time since 1993 and dropped points against Arbroath for the first time since 1975. Ayr United are the only Championship club not to have taken points from them.





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Purple & Green

Radge McRadge
Admin
That is brutal.

to be fair I’ve heard that it wasn’t hickey that Doig was behind it was an age group player at hearts. To be honest, I’d rather hibs punted youngster at 18/19/20 if they don’t believe they will be good enough rather than them hanging on in no mans land until they are 22/23
 

tayside hibee

Well-Known Radge
Alloa 20/1 tonight.
Thats got to be worth a sky diver.👌

The gunts, really have spunked some dosh on donkeys over the last 5 years. Connor Salmon , 3 year deal on big money , was a particular favourite of mine. Another 3 year deal for that whiny tosser Naismith, on big bucks no doubt was another. It wouldn't surprise me if Latrine made money out of these, he is one dodgy bastard .
 
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