JASON HOLT admits he can’t wait to get back to playing football after a summer of discontent at Tynecastle.
The youngster has had to cope with seeing the club he joined at the age of nine placed into administration as staff lost their jobs and team-mates accepted pay cuts.
Holt and Co face an uncertain future as administrators BDO look to stave off liquidation, but the midfielder believes there’s only one way for him to deal with the situation – and that’s to get a ball back at his feet.
The 20-year-old was on holiday when news filtered through that the entire Hearts playing squad was up for sale and, subsequently, that the club had entered into administration. He conceded: “It’s been a wee bit of a whirlwind situation, but it’s been good to put that behind us by getting back into training and out onto the pitch again.
“I was on holiday in Turkey when I got a phone call just to let me know. I didn’t really know what was happening, but when I got back I got filled in with all the information.
“I was a wee bit worried – I think that’s just instinct – but when I got home and got more information, and to get back training, that put things behind us a wee bit. Obviously, it’s still in the back of your mind, but I think the tide is turning a wee bit now. We’re getting back on the straight and narrow and the administrators have given us straight answers, which has been good.
“Bryan Jackson (of BDO) has spoken to the players and there is due to be another meeting with them. They’ve been honest about the situation and they’ve been nothing but good with us, so we can’t complain.”
A 15-point deduction handed to Hearts for the forthcoming season has given the threadbare Tynecastle squad the most difficult of tasks as they bid to avoid relegation to the First Division. Holt, however, believes Gary Locke’s men can overcome that obstacle and remain in the SPL. He insists, too, that the Hearts supporters will have a huge role to play.
He continued: “It’s a big challenge, but we’re a close-knit group this year and the players and all the coaching staff firmly believe we can get out of this situation. We’re going to get big crowds next season. The first home game is against Hibs, so that’s going to be a massive game and hopefully in front of a packed Tynecastle.
“We won’t need any added incentive in that game, we know what’s at stake. Last season, we didn’t have a great record against Hibs and we’re definitely looking to put that right this season.
“The fans have been fantastic, Everyone involved with the club appreciates their efforts and we have to say a big ‘thank you’ to them for the work they’ve put in to help save the club. The funds raised so far are a massive amount and people making the effort to buy season tickets and the rallies that have been going on have all been fantastic.”
Hearts caught many by surprise at the weekend when they announced that Danny Wilson would be returning to the club on a two-year contract, just a matter of days after it appeared that the deal was dead.
Although Hearts’ transfer embargo means they cannot sign any new players, Wilson was already registered with them as part of his loan deal last season from Liverpool. The deal was due to expire at midnight on Sunday and, with Wilson keen to extend his stay, he accepted a drop in salary and 12 months less than the three years previously offered to him in order to put pen to paper.
The former Rangers defender has made huge sacrifices to ensure the deal could be done and Holt believes the 21-year-old could be a candidate for Hearts captain next season.
“It was a massive boost,” he said of Wilson’s surprise return. “I don’t think anyone was sure what was happening so to finally close the deal is great.
“He is still quite a young lad himself, but he brings vast experience to the team.
“Hats off to Danny for coming back. He knows the situation that the club is in so for him to come back here is just brilliant.”
Asked if Wilson has the credentials to wear the armband, Holt added: “I would think so. He has got massive experience and I would be delighted if he was made captain.
“He has played for Scotland – not many people have played for their national team at that age – and he has got experience in the Champions League. He has got a lot of advice to give and that is great for the team.”
Holt believes that while the administration process has been painful, one positive aspect is that he believes the dressing-room will become stronger.
A number of big-name players such as Andy Webster, Marius Zaliukas, Andrew Driver and John Sutton have all left Tynecastle, leaving barely enough players to make up a first team and under-20 squad for the new campaign. But rather than shirk away from the challenge ahead, Holt reckons the youthful squad of players which remain could develop a siege mentality which will see them bond better than ever before.
“The situation the club has been in, everyone has had to rally around and I think that it has brought us a lot closer together,” Holt stressed. “I think that we always stayed positive and showed faith and I think that is showing now. We were already a close group, but this has brought us even further together. The manager, the players and the backroom staff, we’re all really close.
“There are a lot of places in the team up for grabs now and it is up to us to do well in training and make a claim for a place.”
The man they have to impress in those training sessions is manager Gary Locke and Holt praised his gaffer for the way he has handled the turmoil despite being a manager for the first time.
“The only thing the manager can do is keep us positive and he has been brilliant at that,” said Holt. “He has got great character and he has been trying to keep up positive and I think that all of the players have been doing that.
“It’s his first job, but he is great on and off the field. He has been brilliant.”