John Sutton last night agreed to join Australian side Central Coast Mariners on loan from Hearts.
The deal will see the 28-year-old spend the next four months Down Under, keeping him with the Mariners until the end of their domestic season in April and the conclusion of their Asian Champions League group stage matches in May.
Yesterday evening, Hearts and their A-League counterparts were waiting for the relevant paperwork to clear before the player’s move could be confirmed.
Sutton endured a stop-start campaign at Hearts after arriving at the club from Motherwell last summer, scoring three goals in 18 outings.
The player was reportedly told he could leave the club last month amid financial turmoil at Tynecastle but, despite concrete interest from St Mirren, Hearts appeared reluctant to release Sutton to an SPL rival.
However, the Edinburgh outfit struck an acceptable deal with the Australian outfit.
Sutton represents Hearts’ third major departure of 2012, following Eggert Jonsson and Ryan Stevenson out of the club. While not the mass exodus of senior stars some expected, it does leave manager Paulo Sergio with a pool of strikers containing just Stephen Elliott, Gary Glen, Gordon Smith and rookie David Smith – all of whom have a combined total of four goals in maroon this season.
The Mariners are currently ten points clear at the top of the A-League, and will compete in the Asian Champions League later this year.
Coach Graham Arnold was desperate to bolster his attacking options for the upcoming challenges at home and abroad, and spectacularly succeeded in his bold move to take 28-year-old Sutton Down Under.
If international clearance is received, the former Motherwell man could make his debut for the Mariners at home to Brisbane Roar on 4 February.
Sutton will join other former SPL stars Liam Miller, Billy Mehmet, Steven McGarry and Grant Brebner in the A-League, as well as former European champion Harry Kewell.
Meanwhile, Rudi Skacel has vowed to fire Hearts into Europe after penning a deal which will see him stay at the Edinburgh club until the end of the season.
The Czech midfielder, who agreed an extension to his contract at Hearts on deadline day, said: “I am looking forward to the next few months. I want to help the club as much as I can and hopefully finish high enough to get back into Europe again.”
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Scottish Cup tie against St Johnstone, the ex-Marseille and Southampton player added: “We have another home draw and it’s important we make the most of it this weekend, although St Johnstone are a good team and will be a tough opponent.”