Hearts manager John McGlynn concedes he is bracing himself for a player cull in January as the club battles back from the brink of extinction.
The immediate future of Hearts was secured after a deal was struck with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs on Tuesday over the outstanding £449,692 that threatened to sound the death knell for the 138-year-old institution.
An agreement to settle that balance over two instalments up until 3 December was aided by the frenzied fund-raising efforts of supporters and the laudable gesture of some players and backroom staff to defer their wages for November. But McGlynn has warned that Hearts are not out of the woods yet.
A share issue, aimed at raising £1.79 million, remains open to fans as the club (whose last recorded debt was £24 million) look to plug a £2 million funding gap, while a tax tribunal over a £1.75 million claim is expected to be heard this month.
Former Raith Rovers manager McGlynn expects that further attempts to reduce the wage bill will be accelerated when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year.
Club captain Marius Zaliukas, Andy Webster, Andy Driver, Darren Barr and Ryan McGowan are among those in the final year of their contracts and could be sold in January to raise vital finance.
The probable exit of first-team players is unlikely to be conducive to improving results on the park for a team that are currently tenth in the SPL but McGlynn insists Hearts’ survival is paramount.
Speaking ahead of an anticipated sell-out visit of St Mirren tomorrow, McGlynn said: “I have not been told that (the wages will be cut in January) but you wouldn’t be off the mark if that were the case.
“The wage bill was halved in the summer but the players are still on contracts that Hearts are committed to. But that is still an issue and a problem that has contributed to us being in the situation we are in.
“It may well be that players who are out of contract at the end of the season will receive interest from clubs who will make bids.
“It may well be that these bids will bring in enough money to help the football club survive and that is the main thing for me – that HMFC survives here.
“It would be very good to keep every player until the end of the season, and we have massive games coming up, but the most important thing is HMFC playing football in the SPL next season and forever more.
“That’s my biggest concern and I have to take whatever comes with regards to players going. We have to realise that the football club is bigger than individuals or a short-term fix.
“We have to make sure the football club survives. That’s the main thing.”
McGlynn admits the need to redress the crippling problems besetting Hearts takes precedence over the product on park.
“Finances may dictate what is the most important thing,” he added. “Of course we want to still stay competitive, but it’s a balancing act and we’ll need to see how it goes.”
McGlynn has been taken aback by the response from the supporters to the club’s plea for help and hopes his team can show their appreciation with a memorable performance against St Mirren.
“It has been very humbling,” he said. “You kind of get lost for words to describe your gratitude towards them for putting so much money into the football club to help it survive in this hour of need.
“I’d like to thank the fans once again. Everyone is working so hard and now we have to do our part on the pitch in front of nearly a full house.
“So hopefully that won’t add pressure. Hopefully it will add more of an incentive to the players to go out and play in front of 15-16,0000 Hearts fans all looking for the same end product.”
While McGlynn has nothing but praise for those who agreed to defer their wages to facilitate a deal with HMRC, he also revealed that non-playing staff were involved.
He said: “The players have put off their wages and some won’t get paid for six or eight weeks but they have to stay focused on doing their job.
“They have all got girlfriends, wives and children. Like everyone else they have mortgages, cars to run and bills to pay.
“So they deserve massive credit for doing that, as do the management and backroom staff as well may I add.”
McGlynn was yesterday waiting to welcome back a host of players from international duty, including Webster, Barr, McGowan, Jason Holt, Callum Paterson and Kevin McHattie.