Lee Wallace is grateful to Hearts as he secures £1.5m Rangers deal

LEE WALLACE will never forget how Hearts developed him into an international left-back, for he is indebted to the Edinburgh club forever following his £1.5million transfer to Rangers.

That was the opinion of Wallace's agent, Gary Mackay, today as the player prepared to train at Murray Park ahead of tomorrow's opening SPL encounter between the two clubs at Ibrox.

Mackay believes Hearts negotiated a fair price for Wallace having previously rejected offers of 300,000 and 1m from Rangers. He stressed that the player, who has five Scotland caps, was ready to leave Tynecastle but would always be grateful for his formative years at the Riccarton youth academy.

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"Hearts were looking for a deal and a price, Rangers have met that asking price," explained Mackay. "Lee felt he wanted to talk to Rangers and he's happy to have signed a five-year deal there. But he'll never forget the eight good years he had with Hearts. They will live with him forever.

"That grounding has allowed to get where he is now. Who is to say he can't kick on, do well at Rangers and go down and play at a really high level in England? I think he's capable of that. Rangers showed their desire to get the player with the bid they made. Hearts have developed Lee and they get fair remuneration for their development and for the service he's given to the club.

"I'm delighted Lee has an opportunity to go and further his career and play for the team which won the championship for the last three years. That comes as a result of two things: Lee Wallace's ability and the development he's had from people at Hearts.

"That's been rewarded, and I think it's been rewarded handsomely with him having a year left on his contract. I think 1.5 million is probably as good as you would get for most players with 12 months left on their contract."

Wallace feels ready to handle life as an Old Firm player having matured considerably since a conviction for possession of a firearm in 2006 and another for breach of the peace three years later.

"I've matured now and I'm ready for this. Obviously, in my younger days, I let myself down a bit off the field," he said. "It was just my own stupidity and it affected myself, my girlfriend and our families.

But all that was a huge wake-up call. I knew after that I had to knuckle down and be professional.

"That was all a few years ago now. But the penny dropped and I realised I had to start working hard and being more consistent if I wanted to make the most of my career. As a result of that I got involved in the international set-up.

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"I'm just delighted at the way things have gone for me since then. I think Rangers are getting me at the best possible time. I will be 24 next week and I'm ambitious."

Jim Jefferies, the Hearts manager, admitted his club had little option but to cash in on Wallace. "First and foremost we wanted to sign Lee on a longer-term contract but he said he was ambitious and he had opportunities on the table to leave. That's the prerogative of players these days," said Jefferies.

"So the club had to make a decision on a player that could leave for nothing at the end of the season. The player had made it clear that if the club could get a fee for him then he would have been happy.

"Lee Wallace is a quality player. An English Premier League side and Rangers were in for him and that speaks volumes. Rangers were very keen on the player and money is important to any side.

"The club have got to get money in for quality – you can't lose it for nothing."

Jefferies was in Norway last night watching Tromso lose 3-0 to Paksi, which sees the Hungarians progress on a 4-1 aggregate to face Hearts in the third qualifying round of the Europa league.

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