Locke confident Hearts can win Jamie Hamill appeal

Gary Locke was on hand yesterday to back the Foundation of Hearts as they took the first direct debits from signed-up fans. Picture: SNS
Gary Locke was on hand yesterday to back the Foundation of Hearts as they took the first direct debits from signed-up fans. Picture: SNS
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HEARTS appear certain to succeed in their appeal against Jamie Hamill’s red card on Saturday after video replays showed the ball hit the defender’s head.

Hamill, captain for the day in his team’s 2-0 defeat by Inverness Caledonian Thistle, was dismissed by referee John Beaton on the grounds that he had deliberately handled the ball in the penalty area to deny the home team a goalscoring opportunity.

“You’ve got to appeal that,” Hearts manager Gary Locke said yesterday. “Television pictures clearly show the ball hit him on the face, and you could see that by Jamie’s reaction at the game as well. I think common sense will prevail and it will be rescinded and he’ll be available for the Celtic game, which is the most important thing.

“To be perfectly honest I wasn’t sure what the referee had given at the time, but I was certainly surprised when he gave a penalty.

“I spoke to John after the game and he said he thought it had hit his hand. We all make mistakes and I can accept what John had to say, because he genuinely thought it had hit his hand. But as long as it gets rescinded then I don’t have a problem.

“You have to go through the proper channels, but I think it would be a lot easier if the ref could just say ‘I made a wee mistake there, it’s not a red card’ and we could move on. But you have to go through the proper process and we should know by Thursday, and I’m pretty confident we’ll win this one. It’s vital we do have Jamie for the Celtic game.”

Hearts were unsuccessful in an appeal last week against the dismissal of Kevin McHattie against Aberdeen, and were without both the full-back and centre-half Danny Wilson for the game against the league leaders. Both players will be available for the home match against Celtic on Saturday week, and Locke acknowledged he would need all the experience his squad can muster if they are to take anything from the game against the champions.

He added: “We had a couple of 16-year-olds on the bench on Saturday, so to have half a chance we need everyone fit, healthy and available, and we’ll certainly have a better chance with Hamill in the team.”

Hearts’ training ground will be quiet this week, with six members of Locke’s squad having been called up on Scotland under-21 duty. With such a small group of players to choose from, the manager is desperate for those on international duty to avoid injury, but said he had no intention of asking national coach Billy Stark to minimise the involvement of the Hearts contingent.

He said: “I wouldn’t want someone picking my team or deciding how long players should play for, so I won’t be making any special requests to Billy. It’s great recognition for the club that so many players are away on international duty and if I was a young player I’d be wanting to play for Scotland.

“It’s great for the boys and I just hope they go to Holland and get the result we all want and report back on Friday free from injury.

“Will I panic while the game is on? I’ll be panicking all week. Seriously, the boys have done well and merit the call-ups, so I’m delighted for them all.

“The good thing is that the game is Thursday night, so they come back on Friday and I’ll give them Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. So it’s great they can get three days to recover because we don’t have a big squad.

“It’s important for us to utilise the international breaks, because we’ll need to use the same players all season and it’s a big ask for a young player to make the step up to the first team. We need to give them a breather when we can.

“I’m hoping a wee break now will help them later in the season. Rest is as important as training and we’ve had a hectic start. There’s been a huge demand and pressure on us, and I’ve told them to switch off when they get days off rather than spend it in the gym.”

Speaking on the day that the Foundation of Hearts began to take its first direct debits from more than 7,500 fans, Locke reiterated his support for the organisation, which has been named preferred bidder by club administrators BDO.

“To get to this point I must offer a heartfelt thanks to the supporters from everyone at Tynecastle,” he said.

“The club exists because of the supporters, and the club has a chance of a future because of the supporters. We’re all right behind the Foundation of Hearts. They are, to a man and woman, Hearts people.

“More importantly, they’ve got the skills necessary to support the club through what will be an ongoing transition. Today’s first direct-debit draw-down is the start of a very long process, but with the dedication, commitment, and unity shown in the last few months I’ve no doubt we’ll get there.”