HEARTS midfielder Dylan McGowan – who has recent first-hand of experience of playing for a club which no longer exists – said yesterday that the decision by the majority of the first-team squad and coaching staff to defer this month’s wages was made to repay the fans’ faith ahead of this afternoon’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with St Mirren.
While late wage payments have been a common occurrence at Tynecastle in recent seasons, this time the delay has come with the blessing of manager John McGlynn, several of his staff and many of the players who were moved to make the gesture after seeing supporters digging deep to help the club keep at bay the financial crisis at Hearts.
The 21-year-old Australian said: “If we can defer our wages for a little bit to keep this club alive we will do. When you see the fans rallying around like they have done it was the least we could do. We want to show the fans that we’re worth keeping around and that this club’s worth having. We’ll try our best, that’s all we can do.”
Last week, when a £450,000 tax bill was revealed and a winding-up order was issued, Hearts suggested the St Mirren fixture could be the 138-year-old club’s last. However, a stay of execution was granted following an agreement made by Hearts and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs earlier week to extend the deadline for payment until the start of December.
“It’s not the ideal preparation for footballers to go out and play a game,” McGowan admitted. “But the gaffer’s kept us focused on going out and getting three points and playing well. It’s a difficult period for all players, but when we see the fans supporting us as they have done, it’s a lot easier.”
McGowan was on loan from Hearts at Gold Coast United in his native Australia when their A-League licence was revoked and the club folded after just three seasons.
“I was on loan to Gold Coast United last year when they went bust; it’s not that unfamiliar to me at the moment,” he added. “There are similarities with struggling to pay bills. Here you can see how much a fan base really does matter to a football club. To see the fans rallying around like they have done is really heartening for all the boys. We’re very confident and hopeful we’ll still be around for a long time to come.”
While his elder brother Ryan is a mainstay of the Hearts first-team, Dylan is on the periphery and has made three substitute appearances in the SPL this term. He hopes his brother, who played for Australia in midweek, will remain at Hearts this season, but knows if players are sold in January his sibling is one of the club’s more marketable assets.
McGowan added: “He’s one of the first names on the team-sheet. He’s important to the club and he’s done hugely well to get to where he is.” Against the ongoing off-field uncertainty, Hearts are without a win in three SPL games and sit tenth in the table, with scoring goals a constant problem this season. McGlynn said: “We’ve not put the ball in the back of the net enough for the amount of the ball we’ve had, the amount of possession, the amount of good play. That’s the only thing that’s been missing.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon knows his 11th-placed side would move above Hearts with a win and said: “We are only four points behind where we were at this time last season and with hard work and commitment we can move ourselves up the league.”