Gary Mackay, who made a record 640 appearances for Hearts, has had his run-ins with the Romanov regime in the past, and now he has extended his criticism to include nearly everyone involved in the running of the imperilled club.
Mackay says he is “disgusted” with himself for not speaking out earlier, after deciding last year to limit comments made in public about his fears for the club’s future under the present regime.
Only Locke, who Mackay says has been treated appallingly, escapes the former Hearts midfielder’s withering assessment of the unravelling financial situation at Tynecastle, which has been allowed to reach this new low.
Mackay, meanwhile, has offered his services for free to Locke when, or indeed, if the club reaches the start of pre-season training.
Hearts’ woes increased yesterday when they were placed under another Scottish Premier League transfer embargo following the latest missed payment of players, while new signing Danny Wilson’s situation is still unclear. The Scottish Football Association have confirmed the defender has not yet been registered by the club – although he remains contracted to Liverpool, his former club, until the end of this month, when a three-year deal with Hearts, announced over a fortnight ago, is due to kick-in.
The player and his representative Allan Preston are scheduled to meet with Hearts director of football John Murray as well as Locke this morning. Wilson and Preston, a former Hearts player and another fan of the club, are seeking some answers having been given assurances about the club’s future as recently as last month.
Mackay excludes Locke from criticism but he questioned how the club’s football department could have agreed to process the Wilson deal given all that has now unfolded. The former midfielder launched his fierce broadside yesterday after a clumsily worded statement appeared to lay part of the blame at the door of the fans for the club’s troubles. Their “hesitation and inaction” when it came to buying season tickets was identified as “the biggest threat to the club at present”, a contention which angered Mackay, and many other Hearts supporters besides.
“Except for Gary Locke, there is not a single person at Tynecastle with a backbone, or a spine, who I would be happy to take a guarantee from, not one,” said Mackay, who described the statement as “one of the most despicable things I have seen associated with Heart of Midlothian Football Club People are going on about these ‘Lithuanian, absent owners’,” added Mackay. “And yes, they have had a part to play.
“But the Heart of Midlothian website is run by the club, and there were pictures of Danny Wilson up on the day he signed, and his image has been used to try and get people to buy season tickets.
“Then there is the statement that implies that the position Hearts are in is because fans have not been buying enough season tickets.
“In 1986, when we lost out on the double, it wasn’t the fans’ fault, it was the fault of the players. Heart of Midlothian are not in the situation they are now because of the fans. The only reason they have got this far is because of the fans, and their unwavering loyalty.
“They have been taken to the well time and time again,” he continued. “That is unconditional loyalty. And then to put out a statement like that, it’s disgusting.
“These people are despicable, holding on to jobs while enticing people to buy season tickets, and there was also talk about signing David Goodwillie and Kris Boyd. It’s bordering on fraudulent.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a source at the club confirmed that there had been “no hike” in season ticket sales yesterday, despite the club’s plea. The current figure is still below 7,000 – and many of them have not been purchased via the ‘spread the cost’ scheme. Hearts are reported to need £10,000 a day to survive the summer despite claims by the club last month that they were now self-sufficient.
“I used to say these words about the club under [Chris] Robinson,” Mackay said, with reference to the club’s unpopular former chairman/chief executive. “They [the club] have not dealt with people with any degree of integrity. They shot themselves in the shoot with that statement yesterday. It summed up the feeling – or the lack of feeling – they have for Heart of Midlothian. They have just looked on the supporters as their personal piggy banks.”
The club, he says, “have been too worried about incidentals”. Mackay has experienced the petty nature of these previous concerns, even as the club slipped deeper and deeper into trouble. His book, Gary Mackay’s Hearts Dream Team, was banned from the club shop last year, reportedly because the author chose the late Wallace Mercer and not Romanov as his dream team chairman.
“Heart of Midlothian have lost a lot of their pride and dignity over the last two or three years,” he said. “We have sold our soul. The warning signs were there when [finance director] Stewart Fraser and [managing director] Campbell Ogilvie left. Sometimes you want to be proved wrong, unfortunately I have not been.”
“I have to hold my hands up,” he added. “I am disgusted at myself that I have waited until this time to speak publicly. I spoke to friends in private about my concerns. Maybe I didn’t want to get into a fight about something I have so much feeling for.”
He has, however, offered his services for free, if they are required. “I am prepared to work on a part-time basis to help Gary Locke in any way, shape or form,” he said. “Because he has been left out on a limb, as a young manager. He has been out identifying signing targets when there is no hope of funds being made available. He has been lied to. And that is as damning as lying to a fan, which is what Gary is.
“Rangers are going through a horrible time at present, and they have turned to people like Walter Smith. I am not looking at myself at that level, but the club needs people like Donald Ford, Jim Brown, Alan Anderson, Drew Busby, and Gilles Rousset, people of that ilk. That is what the club is all about. They know what pulling on the jersey means.
“On a part-time basis, I would do anything to help our football club, unremunerated. I would do anything to help and so would other good people out there.
“My hope now is that the club will be taken over by the Foundation of Hearts,” he added. “If not them, then I hope they are taken over by individuals who want to restore pride and dignity to the club, on and off the field. My fear is that it is too late.
“No-one has died. But listen, this club is 139 years old. That’s a lot of years.”