The Scottish Professional Football League will today hear Hearts’ appeal to have their transfer embargo partially lifted during a board meeting at Hampden.
The Tynecastle club are currently in the midst of a registration ban after falling into administration last summer, leaving the club increasingly reliant on a paper-thin squad of largely inexperienced youngsters.
Hearts’ administrators, BDO, held informal talks with an SPFL representative last Wednesday and were informed their claim would be heard today.
Bryan Jackson, the senior business restructuring partner at the financial giants, has followed up that conversation by submitting a document outlining their case ahead of the meeting. BDO are aware there is little hope of the transfer embargo being lifted, with the SPFL having previously been clear in their stance that the club must serve their punishment for suffering an insolvency event.
However, they will request slight leniency, citing the mental and physical fatigue on the ill-prepared young players who are now 20 points adrift at the foot of the Premiership, while claiming they would be little threat to the sides above them in the standings if allowed a couple of extra bodies. Hearts do, though, have a League Cup semi-final against Inverness to play on 2 February.
Two key requests will be submitted. BDO are hopeful the SPFL will indicate their willingness to allow the club a “one in, one out policy”, as fears abound that clubs could swoop for their players during the current transfer window.
Ryan Stevenson has already been linked with a move to China, while the finer details of Adam King’s move to Swansea are expected to be ironed out in the next 24 hours – albeit the midfielder, an unused substitute in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Motherwell, is expected to remain at Tynecastle for the rest of the season.
And BDO will ask for special dispensation to sign free agents, with at least two senior players thought to be willing to join Hearts for little recompense.
Any signing, however, could not be made until 1 February due to a separate registration ban put in place by the Scottish FA judicial panel. “I just feel that I have to try,” said Jackson, who watched from the directors’ box at Tynecastle on Saturday as Jamie Walker suffered a suspected metatarsal injury and Kevin McHattie sustained a hamstring injury. “Because what makes the difference now is we can see the results of playing the young boys week after week and with injuries.”
Hearts manager Gary Locke admitted he was not banking on a successful outcome today, and accepted the club had brought the punishment on itself for the mismanagement of the Vladimir Romanov era. But he again argued that, for the sake of his young players, a degree of clemency would be in order.
“We’ll just see how Monday goes,” said Locke at the weekend. “I’ve said all the time it was always going to be a long, hard season for us. But I think certainly, mentally for the players, it’s a lot for 17 or 18-year-old kids to take on. I’ve said all along I would just like to have a couple of experienced players to help them on the pitch. Because I think that would make all the difference for us. I’m not expecting anything to change [as a result of the appeal]. All we’re asking is a wee bit of a help.
“My worry is some of the players are struggling, confidence-wise, and it would be ideal to give them a little breather. But unfortunately we can’t do that.”
While defender Danny Wilson is likely to be available for Saturday’s game at St Johnstone after a bout of tonsillitis, Locke seems sure to be deprived of two more players in Walker and McHattie.
“Jamie came off and the early signs are that he might have done his metatarsal, and that would be a disaster for us,” Locke continued. “He’ll have to go for a scan on Monday and we’ll see how that is. Kevin McHattie had to come off with a hamstring. He showed his grit and determination to give us 50 minutes today, but you could see that he wasn’t quite right.”