The question of whether he starts or not won’t be answered until tomorrow. But Jon Daly has a simple instruction for Jamie Walker: show Rangers you’re worth £1 million.
Tomorrow’s clash between Rangers and Hearts at Ibrox is already intriguing enough. But there’s a play-within-a-play aspect to it thanks to the Walker transfer saga.
The winger has had his head turned by Rangers’ interest. One bid, reported to be around £600,000, has already been turned down. Hearts are braced for another before the transfer window shuts at the end of this month.
But interim head coach Daly is now happy to include the player having left him out of the squad for the first league game of the season against Celtic. Ian Cathro, who was sacked as head coach at the start of this month, originally signalled this exile. He detected Walker had let his concentration levels fall amid Rangers’ interest.
But the player was restored to the squad for last weekend’s hard-fought 1-0 win at Kilmarnock. He was only denied an appearance because Hearts were reduced to ten men after Isma Goncalves was sent off following a tangle with Kirk Broadfoot. Daly was happy to learn Goncalves’ red card had been rescinded yesterday midway through a briefing with reporters.
If not from the start, Walker is likely to join Goncalves on the pitch at some point tomorrow. Daly insists he’s ready. More than that, he has challenged Walker to show Rangers that he merits being the subject of a second transfer bid – one that meets Hearts’ valuation. In other words, if he really wants to join them, show them how much.
“Jamie is a big boy and I’m sure he will be able to handle it,” said Daly. “We hoped to get him on to the pitch last week but with the red cards and the way the game panned out I don’t think it was a game that would have suited his style.
‘This weekend is different,” he added. “It’s a different type of game and we’re looking for different personnel. If he starts or comes off the bench I would imagine that he’ll be quite comfortable and happy to deal with anything that comes his way. I’d imagine he will get a fairly decent reception as well to be honest!
“It’s a situation where he is playing against a club who are interested in him,” he continued. “And to show he is worth the valuation we value him at he needs to perform.
“So we are hopeful he will go out and put on the kind of performance he is more than capable of. He’s in the shop window. The window is still open and until that window shuts he remains our player.”
It’s not as if Daly has no understanding of what the player is going through. Daly himself left Dundee United for Rangers four years ago, lured by the size of club despite their third-tier status at the time.
Daly reported there had been no fresh bid from Rangers for Walker. “There was a bid that was rejected due to it not being the sufficient amount we require so the situation is still the same,” he said. “And it will remain the same until we get a bid of the required amount.
“It unsettled him initially, as is understandable when a club the size of Rangers make a bid,” he continued. “But he’s focused now, we have had a couple of chats with him about what we expect of him and what we need him to do.
“He has done everything we have asked of him in training. So he has put himself back in with a chance of playing.”
Hearts’ preparations for the trip to Ibrox are boosted by having Goncalves available for selection. Daly was confident that would be the outcome in any case. “For me retaliation is throwing your arm back with a bit of vengeance and malice which I don’t think he has done,” Daly said. “He has tried to push someone off as you would do if you were getting your hair pulled.”
There was further positive news in 34-year-old midfielder Don Cowie extending his stay at the club. He has signed a new one-year deal to 2019. “He’s a model pro,” said Daly.
The same could be said of the interim head coach, who will also have to deal with some emotion on returning to Rangers tomorrow. Daly spent two years at the Ibrox club, where he found comfort following the death of his father just four months into his stay. Then manager Ally McCoist travelled to Ireland for the funeral despite being in the midst of turbulent times.
“Everyone pulled together for me and was very supportive at the time,” said Daly. “It’s something I will always be grateful for and will always remember.”