John Souttar to Rangers: Hearts fans' anger, restrictions should not be placed on player, emotion taking hold

Fraser Wishart can understand the emotional response of Hearts fans to the impending departure of John Souttar, but says the reality is the Scotland international is simply a human being changing jobs, something the majority of those in the stands have done at some stage of their life without being bombarded with vitriol.

Hearts defender John Souttar has signed a pre-contract with Rangers.
Hearts defender John Souttar has signed a pre-contract with Rangers.

And, the PFA Scotland chief executive says that while Souttar will eventually depart having honoured his contract, he will have to deal with dozens more who have been told there is no future for them at clubs all around the country and are being pressured to move on now.

“I get it, the situation is not ideal for anyone and players’ rights have changed even since I was playing,” says Wishart. “But Bosman came in and gave players more freedom – only at the end of their contracts mind, because if John Souttar was a plumber, he could just go and take another plumbing job, no problem, but he’s not so he is still bound by the contract until the summer and he is honouring that. But I do have sympathy for everyone, for the player, the club, the supporters because there is so much emotion in football. But no-one cares when they are trying to get rid of a player they don’t want.”

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Angry to see a prize asset moving to Rangers, Hearts fans say it would have been more palatable to see him heading down south, effectively asking the centre-back to exile himself and his family to soothe the disappointment.

Souttar recently celebrated a return to the Scotland team.

But Wishart says it is wrong to place those restrictions on an out of contract player.

“Graham Alexander suggested players shouldn’t be able to sign deals with clubs in their own division but players are human beings and they should have the same rights as everyone else.”

Those rights include being protected when injured. Having suffered lengthy spells on the sidelines with ankle and Achilles injuries since joining the Tynecastle club in February 2016, the 25 year-old is entitled to make hay while the sun shines.

Others before him, waited, with Lee Wilkie putting off a move to Leicester to stick with Dundee, only to sustain a cruciate injury and then see the club plunge into administration. Then he had to move on anyway, without the major payday.

Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst and sporting director Ross Wilson sold the club's vision to Souttar.

But some out-spoken Hearts fans believe they deserve loyalty or recompense, or, at the very least, a more sensitive parting of the ways.

“But let’s be clear, he was injured in the course of his work,” explains Wishart, who hopes most employers would have the moral fibre and the insurance cover to allow them to see out their contractual obligations in such circumstances.

And, having helped Souttar through his rehabilitation, Hearts have reaped rewards. No wonder they didn’t sell him at a knockdown price in the summer and now see greater value in holding on to him for the remainder of the season than selling him on the cheap and having to face up to him.

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In top form, he has helped Hearts to third-place, offering the possibility of a lucrative shot at European group stage football for the first time in a decade and they want to tap into his talent while they still can.

Unless Rangers offer silly money, anything else would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.

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