Gary Locke welcomes Foundation of Hearts news

HEARTS boss Gary Locke hopes news that the Foundation of Hearts has been granted preferred bidder status by administrators is the first major step in the club’s road to recovery.

Gary Locke takes training at Riccarton ahead of the Partick Thistle clash. Picture: SNS

BDO confirmed today that the fans group hoping to buy the troubled Edinburgh outfit are now in the driving seat for a takeover after putting together what they described as a credible attempt to save Hearts.

The news was welcomed by Locke, who hailed today as “a big day” for the stricken Gorgie club following the latest developments.

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He said: “It’s great news, fantastic news.

“I know it’s a big ask again because the fans have been unbelievable and it’s asking them to put their hands in their pockets once more but if they can all come on board, it will certainly leave the club in a stronger position.

“We’ve still got a long way to go but now we know the Foundation is preferred bidder. They are Hearts people and they’ve got the club at heart.

“It’s the news that myself and all the playing staff and the staff behind the scenes were looking forward to hearing.

“It’s a big day for the football club and hopefully now we can move forward.”

Locke says he is happy with the prospect of a fan ownership model being in place at the club.

He added: “It has happened in other countries, with Germany probably being the most notable. Portsmouth as well. It seems to work.

“For me, it’s great in as much as it’s going to be Hearts people who are going to be running the football club and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Lithuanian firm Ukio Bankas, who are themselves in administration, hold a 29.9 per cent stake in the Jambos and are owed £15.5million.

As well as debts to Ukio Bankas, another firm once controlled by former club owner Vladimir Romanov, UBIG, is due £8.2million, with around £5million due to a list of other companies.

Locke remains hopeful that a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) can be agreed with creditors.

He said: “That’s not something I get too involved in but it would be great if we could get a CVA done and then we can move forward as a club. It would be a big relief to everyone.”

Bryan Jackson of BDO said: “This is an important milestone and reflects our belief that FOH is a credible bidder for the club.

“However, we all still have a lot of work to do to demonstrate to the major creditors that the bid can offer them the best possible outcome.

“Let’s not get carried away - now is the time for everyone to get behind FOH to make this bid work.”

On the field, Hearts head into tomorrow night’s Scottish Premiership game against Partick Thistle on a high following last weekend’s derby win over Hibernian.

But Locke admits his preparations have been hit hard by a number of his youthful squad being away on international duty this week as they aim to further slash the 15 point deduction they started the season with for going into administration.

He said: “Sunday was great but the rest of the week has been pretty much a disaster to be fair.

“We’ve not had any players, we haven’t had anyone on the training ground so the preparations for this game certainly have not been great at all.

“Sunday was a huge plus for us, not just because it was Hibs, but because it was important to get three points.

“We’ve got to try to dig into the 12 points and this will be another difficult game because Partick are absolutely flying at the moment.

“I’ve seen them a couple of times myself and they have started the season really well. They have been fantastic in every game.

“They have good, attacking players and I think they will do really well this season. It will be a tough test for us.”

Hearts will be without experienced campaigner Ryan Stevenson for the foreseeable future after he suffered medial ligament damage against Hibs.

Locke said: “I’m gutted for the lad. I’ve seen it again and it was a poor challenge and I’m going to lose him for a number of weeks.

“I’ve said all along we’ve got a good squad but injuries and suspensions are going to affect us and that’s me lost one of the most influential and experienced players in the team for a good eight to 12 weeks.

“Hopefully we can get him back sooner but it’s a huge blow for us.”