Hearts’ hopes of Skacel deal fade as fans told to prepare for bad news
RUDI Skacel last night all but ruled out a return to Hearts when he posted a message on his Twitter feed saying he was likely to have bad news for supporters of the Tynecastle club.
The Czech midfielder had said at the weekend that yesterday would be the day for him to make a decision about his playing future, and although he did not reveal his next club, he made it clear that barring any last-minute U-turns it would not be the one where he enjoyed two separate successful spells.
“Thank u for all the msgs from Hearts fans,” Skacel wrote. “You’re the best but unfortunately I may not have good news for u, but wherever I go 51 shirt it is.”
The number is a reference to the Scottish Cup final in May, when Skacel scored twice in Hearts’ 5-1 victory over Hibernian. His second period at Tynecastle came to an end shortly after that match when his contract expired, but he has remained a free agent since, fuelling speculation about a return to Edinburgh. That speculation was initially written off by the club as hypothetical, but it became a more realistic prospect in recent weeks when the player and Hearts directors began direct negotiations.
As was the case when Skacel returned to Hearts after a four-year absence two seasons ago, there was at first a considerable gap between the wages the player was asking for and what the club were prepared to offer. Although both sides went some way towards bridging that gap, the issue of appearance money and bonus payments remained a stumbling block.
Even so, before Skacel tweeted last night, club sources suggested that the deal was in the balance. However, other parties involved in the negotiations said that the 33-year-old seemed more likely to find a new club closer to his home in the Czech Republic, where he has been training with his old club Slavia Prague.
Hearts have made significant cutbacks since the cup final. Ian Black, Suso Santana, Craig Beattie and Stephen Elliott also left after playing in the May win over Hibs, while other departures included Adrian Mrowiec and David Templeton. Ryan Stevenson returned on the last day of the transfer window just as Templeton was leaving for Ibrox, but otherwise manager John McGlynn has had to make do with the squad he inherited when he took over in the close season.
Yesterday, as he prepared for this evening’s League Cup match at home to Livingston, McGlynn said he would welcome Skacel back but left any decisions on player recruitment to the board.
“I’ve said many times anyone who scores 18 goals would be very welcome,” he said. “That’s what he got last season, and that would be a good asset to you.
“The fans love Rudi. I know the first time I was here, Rudi came to the club and was part of that very, very good side that split the Old Firm. He’s a good trainer, a gentleman on and off the pitch, he scored many goals and scored a goal in the  Scottish Cup final as well, so obviously he became a fans’ favourite. He came back [two seasons ago], and scored 18 goals last season. So of course he is a fans’ favourite.”
As was the case in negotiations with Rangers over Templeton, McGlynn has not been directly involved in the talks with Skacel. He is aware that some in Scottish football may regard that as unusual, but explained that when he agreed to take the post he did so with an awareness of how the club structure worked.
“I considered that when the job became available,” he said. “I said: Do you realise what you’re going into? I said: Aye, so just take the job and get on with it. I’m still in that situation: dealing with the players I’ve got and understanding that there will be rumours and stories, and unfortunately players maybe not getting paid from time to time and all the rest of it. But still I took the opportunity to come here.
“Myself and John Murray, the director of football, recommend players. John’s got more contacts than anyone in the game. There are still many players out there that anyone can get under freedom of contract. And we do recommend players, but like most clubs it then has to be approved at a higher level. So that’s where we find ourselves.”
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