DYLAN McGowan is delighted that the Hearts fans are on the brink of taking control of the club but says that it would be only fair to leave another supporter – Gary Locke – in charge of the football team.
The news that the Foundation of Hearts had bolstered their membership level to over 8,000 was a welcome piece of positivity for a club that has also been showing signs of improvement on the pitch.
With IT tycoon Ann Budge putting up the initial stake to push through a Company Voluntary Arrangement, take the Tynecastle club out of administration and secure supporter ownership, McGowan says the future is looking bright.
The defender’s years at the club have taught him not to get too carried away until things are cemented but the fact that it is a Hearts season-ticket holder who will take initial control before handing the reins to the Foundation in a few years’ time does give him cause for optimism.
McGowan said: “It’s a fantastic achievement by the fans. The club have set them a target to raise as much money as possible and to get 8,000 shows we have a lot of loyal supporters.
“It’s definitely been a lot more positive over the past couple of weeks. Hopefully, things are starting to turn around and we can get over the line.
“But we have not had any real chats with Ann Budge yet. We obviously know who she is but we don’t know her plans. I’m sure she will leave that until she officially takes over. Nobody is 100 per cent sure when it will go through. But, with Ann heading the foundation and 8,000 pledges, we are heading in the right direction.”
Having experienced the highs as well as the lows of the Vladimir Romanov era, McGowan believes that Hearts now need a period of stability as they regroup and try to work their way back up to the highest levels of the Scottish game and he claims that the more people who understand the club and have its best interests at heart throughout that process, the better.
“She [Budge] is a fan which is great and we hear that she sits in the Wheatfield Stand. Hopefully, she is not one of the ones giving me pelters! But it is good that we know who she is and, hopefully, she can do her best and eventually give the club back to the fans.
“These positive developments can only help the players’ mindset for the rest of the season.”
A number of players, including the Australian, are out of contract at the end of the season and the squad have heard the rumours about manager Locke’s long-term prospects. McGowan, though, insists it would be unfair to jettison Locke after everything he has had to contend with this season. “It’s something you will have to ask the new owners but he’s definitely got a case for [being kept on]. It has been a tough season for everyone at the football club so, hopefully, next season will be a lot more positive and, until he can sign his own players, and build his own teams I don’t think he can be judged.
“It is a bit harsh to judge him on this season when he has had one hand tied behind his back. I’m sure the gaffer can fight his own corner but I’m more than happy for him to be there, and I’m sure so are most of the boys.
“You won’t find any of the boys who would say a bad word about the manager. He is obviously working at a tough time, given all the sanctions we have been under, as have the players. We have stuck together and you can see the coaching staff, the boys and the fans are all together. Until a new owner actually comes in and decides what she wants to do we can only stay together as we have been doing this season.”
A decent showing ended in defeat against Celtic last weekend so, against Motherwell on Saturday, Hearts are keen to get back to collecting points again. In the four games leading up to the league encounter with the Parkhead side, Locke had guided his team to two wins and two draws but, with 18 points separating them from second-bottom St Mirren, McGowan concedes that relegation now looks all but inevitable. “It is not looking likely that we will stay up but, until it is mathematically impossible, the boys won’t be talking about Championship football.”
Come the summer, it may influence what contracts are available and whether players opt to fight for promotion or move on but McGowan says they have put chat about future contracts aside until the takeover is completed, claiming that a degree of career uncertainty is something they have all grown used to.
“It is definitely one of those things you have to think about but it is up to the club, the new owners and the manager. It is not something I think about too much because it is what we are used to. I can only work away and do the best I can. You can’t think about it until they come to you. There will be no grudges either way as I have had a fantastic time at this football club.”