Clubs have been warned that they will not be permitted to plunder promising talent from Hearts without stumping up big sums of money, with the club’s director of footballCraig Levein promising shareholders that Callum Paterson will not be leaving Gorgie in January unless his suitors pay out more than £1 million.
The right-back, whose contract expires at the end of the season, has been one of the Tynecastle club’s most consistent performers for more than a year. His form has led to him being promoted to the Scottish national team and attracted the attention of numerous English clubs.
At yesterday’s annual meeting, one fan asked if there was more that could be done to convince the full-back to extend his stay in the capital. Levein assured him that several overtures had been made and rebuffed and said he was resigned to losing him, but added that the 22-year-old would not leave without the club receiving suitable recompense.
“We have made numerous attempts to keep Callum but he is a strong-willed boy,” said Levein. “He made his mind up, in spite of numerous offers of new deals which he has rejected. We are at a stage where he might move in January, if the number is big enough. If not, we’ll wait until the summer.”
Due to regulations regarding the development of players and the pay-out required for those under 23, even if the club keep Paterson, pictured, until the summer, any move to a top-level English club would result in Hearts receiving €75,000 (£63,000) for every one of his six years at Gorgie. That tally, allied to the onfield worth of the defender,who has already contributed seven goals this term, meant the club were happy to reject a £550,000 offer from Wigan in August, said Levein.
“If we are going to sell our best players and just be recognised as a team that sells at the first sign of an offer, then all that will happen is teams will keep knocking on our door and taking our players for next to nothing. It was important in January that we dug our heels in with Osman Sow and said, ‘he is not going unless we get the right amount of money’, and we’ll do the same this January. Callum Paterson will still be here unless we receive a seven-figure sum. That is a fact.”
The compensation is one reason Levein said the club plans to bolster the academy and bring through more graduates from their own youth ranks, even if years of neglect means they may have to be patient,
“For the last two and a half years, we’ve effectively been filling gaps and trying to find players to fill the under-20 squad,” he added. “Last summer, we only took two academy players in full-time. That’s an incredibly low number, but it reflected the lack of investment during the last two or three years of the previous regime. Money was withdrawn from scouting and coaching at the academy. It was starved of money.
“We’ve been finding players from elsewhere to join our under-20s and, as a consequence, we probably won’t get as many coming through to our first team as we did previously, “ warned the director of football. “But next summer, we’re confident we’ll bring six or seven kids from our under-17 team in full-time. This will be the first group that I confidently feel will become first-team players.
“The age-group below that is strong and the one below that is strong as well. I think you’ll all be really happy with what’s coming through. Alongside the development centres, we have introduced the Box Soccer programme for ages 9-13. I absolutely believe this will be the difference between our club and the rest.”