Gary Mackay: Hearts need to address flawed transfer policy

EVERYONE would have loved a wee European trip to look forward to next season but, for me, beating Motherwell on Saturday would just have papered over the cracks.

It might just be a blessing in disguise to finish sixth, so that the people at Hearts can concentrate on getting things sorted properly over the summer.

We could still get fourth or fifth, but when you consider that Motherwell have taken nine points off us and St Johnstone have taken seven points off us this season, would we really deserve it? Both those clubs have only a fraction of our wage bill, yet seem to operate in a much more progressive manner than us.

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We have to be brutally honest and say that the whole footballing structure at Hearts has to be addressed, right through from the eight-year-olds to the first-team squad. The whole thing has to be looked at so that we maybe have a sustainable five-year plan in place for the betterment of the football club. I've touched on these issues several times this season, but in order to progress as a club, improving our transfer policy has to be made a priority.

The wage bill at Motherwell is about a fifth of that at Hearts, but, on Saturday and the last time we played them at Fir Park, they were simply far better than us. That shouldn't be the case but it all stems from the way the club has been run over the past few years.

We only have to look at the Motherwell side to see the likes of Giles Coke and Steve Jennings running the show in the midfield. I'm not saying these guys, specifically, are players we should be going for, but they came from lower-league English clubs and are the type of layers we as Hearts fans would usually like to see our club in the market for. Then there's Steven MacLean at Aberdeen, whom Csaba Laszlo wanted, who seems to be doing well in a struggling Aberdeen side.

Despite the fact our manager was desperate to sign him, he wasn't allowed to get him. That can't be a proper way to operate.

And the one that really gets my goat is Jim O'Brien. Regular readers and anyone else who knows me will be aware how highly I rate this guy.

So it was with some frustration I read in last week's papers that Rangers are now after him. O'Brien is a good Premier League player – any football person in Scotland would tell you that he is they type of player who can turn a game, and you don't find them easily, especially not on the cheap. But I can't see any reason why we wouldn't have got him if we had had the foresight to try our luck back in January.

It doesn't take rocket science to recognise what area of the team needs strengthened. We've been screaming out for options in the front area of the park, so, for me, going for O'Brien would have been a no-brainer. I understand we might have had to pay compensation because he's still young but, as I said last week, would it not have been etter to get him tied up instead of Darren Barr? Now it looks like Rangers are interested so we've probably missed the boat, and that would be a real shame.

This is no criticism of Jim Jefferies and his backroom staff because they've only just arrived at the club and will undoubtedly want everything done properly.

They are the type of guys who go out and watch players to build up an inside knowledge and then decide who they want to bring to the football club. That is the way they have always operated, and now we can only hope that they are allowed to continue bringing in players of their own choosing, otherwise things are not going to get any better.

While we want the new manager to bring in his own players, we nderstand that there is a responsibility to get the club back on an ven keel financially. I admire the fact Vladimir Romanov has put in so much of his own cash, but the debt is so big that it's almost unsustainable on average attendances of 14,500 and that will have to be considered if and when Jim is allowed to enter the transfer market.

There also remains a lack of Scottish presence on the board at the club. If I was ever asked who I would like to see join the Hearts board, I would suggest Donald Ford. He played for the club, has a great footballing brain and is a very articulate person. Similar to someone like myself, Scott Crabbe and Gary Locke, Donald is the type of guy who has Hearts at heart and would undoubtedly help the club make the correct decisions more often than not.

Although I am concerned about several aspects of the football club at the moment, the noises emanating from the club give us a bit of hope because there seems to be a positive relationship between the manager and the owner. That has to be structured with the long term in mind.

Jim Jefferies may be there for five years and more, and may be able to see that structure through, but even if he isn't, the structure should still be in place for whoever replaces him.

Hearts had good times under Wallace Mercer and then it changed. We then had good times under Chris Robinson and Leslie Deans and then it changed. Equally, we've had some good times under Romanov but now is the time to try and do something for the long-term good of the club before we stagnate again.

Tell all the Hibs you know ..

EVEN though all Hearts supporters will be downbeat after Saturday's defeat, hopefully we can have our spirits lifted when we head to Easter Road on Saturday.

The fact the old shed is down will create a different type of atmosphere, with the two sets of fans right next to each other.

While I'd like all the Hearts fans to be on their best behaviour, I certainly won't be discouraging anyone in maroon from reminding our friends from that end of the city that it's 109 years in a row ..!