Hearts blocked in bid to recruit Rudi Skacel

HEARTS last night completed the loan signing of West Ham striker Paul McCallum after being given permission by the Scottish Premier Football League to bring in a player to replace Swansea signing Adam King.

Rudi Skacel: Not like for like. Picture: SNS
Rudi Skacel: Not like for like. Picture: SNS

At the same time, however, the league turned down an application from the Tynecastle club to bring back Rudi Skacel in place of goalkeeping coach Alan Combe, whose registration as a player has been cancelled.

In another significant announcement yesterday, Ryan Stevenson declared that he would stay with Hearts, ending speculation about a move to Rangers or Romania.

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Stevenson has been suspended for his team’s last two league games, both of which they won, but is available for Sunday’s League Cup semi-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Hearts had no hopes of playing Skacel in that game. Even so, the failure to register the Czech international for a third time will be a blow both financially, as he would have boosted attendances significantly, and in terms of morale in and around the club.

The SPFL board turned down the Skacel application on the grounds that the restrictions on clubs such as Hearts, who are in administration, only allow for a like-for-like, one-in-one-out signing policy. McCallum, 22, who is expected to train with his new team-mates today and is on loan for the rest of the season, has been accepted as a clear replacement for the teenage midfielder King, although he is older and more experienced. When it came to Skacel, however, the league deemed that an outfield player who could expect to play regularly was not the equivalent of a goalkeeper who had not played this season and had only been listed as a player in case of emergency.

“The board accepted the application to register Paul McCallum, subject to completion and submission of the necessary documentation,” a statement from the SPFL read last night. “In relation to the application to register Rudi Skacel, the board considered a range of factors, including the fact that 34-year-old midfielder Skacel was being proposed to replace a 39-year-old goalkeeper/ goalkeeping coach who has not appeared on any first-team squad list in any Premiership match for Heart of Midlothian this season. The board declined to register Rudi Skacel.”

Hearts administrator Bryan Jackson said: “I am grateful to the SPFL for the speed and fairness of this decision which allows Adam King to be swiftly replaced with Paul. We are disappointed that the application for Rudi Skacel was rejected but understand the reasons for the SPFL’s decision.” If he remains a free agent, Skacel will be able to join Hearts if and when the club comes out of administration.

Londoner McCallum has already been on loan at several different clubs in England, having joined West Ham from Dulwich Hamlet. He has turned out for Rochdale, AFC Wimbledon and Aldershot, and last summer scored on his debut for West Ham in a pre-season friendly at Cork City. “Paul comes highly recommended,” Hearts manager Gary Locke said. “He has a good pedigree, is powerful, good in the air and can score goals.”

Stevenson has pledged his future to Hearts. “I’m going to be here for as long as I possibly can,” said the 29-year-old who is in his second spell as a Hearts player. “Everything about the club has me smitten, even more so this time with the situation and the way the fans have been, in keeping the club going. If Hearts were playing on the moon then I’d be playing on the moon with Hearts. If I’m lucky enough and blessed enough to be here until the end of my career then I’d definitely do that.”