HEARTS have avoided the prospect of having to seek new training facilities after a deal was struck to allow them to continue their residency at Heriot-Watt University.
BDO, the administrators of the Tynecastle club, had questioned the cost-effectiveness of the Riccarton training complex. It is understood Hearts have been paying between £350,000 and £400,000 a year for the facility where their football department has been based on non-match days since 2004. That arrangement was under threat, with Heriot-Watt initially thought to be reluctant to renegotiate the terms of the lease with Hearts. The recent BDO creditors’ report on the club revealed a debt of £146,000 owed to the university.
But after lengthy negotiations yesterday, sources close to the talks indicated that an “amicable agreement” had been reached. The new terms have not been disclosed, but BDO are content that the benefits of the training centre outweigh the costs involved.
The value of Hearts’ youth academy system at Riccarton has been placed in sharp focus this season. Following the transfer embargo placed on the club for going into administration, manager Gary Locke has fielded a youthful side largely comprised of home-grown talent such as Jason Holt, Jamie Walker, Kevin McHattie and Callum Paterson. BDO turned down offers from Nottingham Forest for midfielder Holt last month.
The Riccarton complex cost £6.5 million to construct, with Hearts contributing £2.35 million of that cost when they agreed their original 25-year lease with Heriot-Watt almost ten years ago.
The continuation of the agreement will come as a significant boost to Locke as he continues his bid to preserve Hearts’ top flight status this season, despite the 15-point penalty imposed on the club for their ongoing insolvency event.
Locke received further good news yesterday when it emerged that midfielder Ryan Stevenson is making good progress in his recovery from the knee ligament injury he suffered during the 1-0 Edinburgh derby win over Hibs at Tynecastle on 11 August.
The 29-year-old was initially expected to be sidelined for two months but there is now a prospect of him making a slightly earlier return to action.
“Ryan started running this morning, so that’s another bit of positive news,” said Locke. “We’re not going to put a timescale on him but he’s got the leg brace off now and he’s back running. Hopefully we can see him back in a Hearts jersey in the next few weeks as well.”
Hearts have already made inroads into their points deficit but, after two successive Premiership defeats by Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Celtic, will seek to regain some momentum when they take on Ross County in Dingwall on Saturday. Locke is determined to keep spirits at the club high.
“We said to the players after the game on Saturday that we can’t let our heads go down and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves because we’ve got too many important games coming up,” he added.
“On Monday it was up to me and (assistant manager) Billy Brown to try and lift the spirits a bit because obviously we were a bit down after losing the game.
“But training has been nice and bubbly, we’ve done a wee bit extra running as well and everybody’s looking good.”