August 2012 Dinner
It has been our custom over the years to have the Hearts Management Team as our guests at the first Dinner of the new season to give us an overview of the year ahead and this year was no different when we welcomed new Manager, John McGlynn along with Assistant Manager, Edgaras Jankauskas and First Team Coach, Gary Locke. Over 220 members and their guests were present and gave them a warm welcome despite the disappointing draw at Easter Road the previous week.
During the Q and A session John, ably assisted by Edgaras and Gary, set out his stall on how he wanted the season to pan out for Hearts. As we all know the wages budget has been severely curtailed, a number of high earners have left the Club and the future is very much on bringing players through the youth system.
We will see a number of the younger players playing every week and John advised that we will have to be patient with them. He said that it is very difficult to predict who will settle quickly. He gave as an example. Lee Wallace, who was not expected to progress as quickly as some others at the time but in fact settled immediately he was promoted to the first team and continued to progress. He is very pleased with Callum Paterson and will give opportunities to players like Jason Holt, Dale Carrick, Jamie Walker and Dylan McGowan amongst others through the season. These players are the future for Hearts both for playing and selling on for financial profit.
He also emphasised the importance of the senior players left at the club, the Websters, Barrs and Graingers of this world, all good players, in not only playing their part on the park but also helping and encouraging the youngsters. There was a special mention for Ryan McGowan who he feels has no limits to his potential.
He had a word for the supporters as well hoping that we will get behind the team at all times even when the younger players are inconsistent, which is inevitable at this stage.
John is confident that despite losing some senior players that Hearts will have a good season, challenging for Europe and doing well in the Cup competitions.
This was another most enjoyable and informative evening and the Chairman thanked John, Edgaras and Gary for coming along and answering our questions so clearly. We all came away with a much clearer picture of the season ahead.
May 2012 Dinner
When we have a Dinner in May it means that Hearts have won the Scottish Cup. We have now had three such Dinners in recent years but there is no doubt that this year’s thrashing of Hibernian must take its place as the most memorable.
Exactly 400 members and guests attended the celebration enjoying a free drink courtesy of Association funds before sitting down to an excellent meal. We were delighted to welcome Managing Director David Southern to the meeting as well as former Director of Finance Stewart Fraser but there is no doubt that the biggest cheer of the night came when the star of the show the Scottish Cup itself joined us in the Gorgie Suite.
Everybody had the opportunity to sit with their friends, enjoy their meal and recall the great day and with the opportunity to have their photo taken with the Cup a great time was had by all.
April 26th 2012 Dinner
Our guest for the April dinner was Tom Purdie. Tom is well known to many of us as he had a connection with Hearts for many years being in charge of security at Tynecastle. He also played a major role in raising funds to build the Memorial at Contalmaison in France to remember the Hearts players who fell there in 1916 during the First World War. Indeed many people believe that the Cairn would never have been finished without Tom’s sterling contribution. Currently he is making the same contribution to the 1914 Memorial Trust Committee who are raising funds to build a statue at Tynecastle to commemorate the Hearts players of 1914 who volunteered to fight in the Great War. Currently he is stadium manager at Hamilton Academicals.
Typical of the man he asked to come along and show us his photograph collection of Scottish football since the 1950’s on two large screens and over 160 members and guests were treated to some great memories of times gone by. While many of the pictures had a Hearts connection showing such great favourites as the Terrible Trio of Conn. Bauld and Wardhaugh as well as Alec Young, Dave Mackay and many others. He also included a number of Scottish legends such as Denis Law and Jim Baxter who were on show with images of the national team at Hampden and on their travels.. Pictures of stadiums around the country brought back many memories and showed how much has changed over the years. Just as enjoyable was Tom’s personal recollections, amusing anecdotes and commentary while displaying the photographs.
The evening was a nice wee change from our usual Q and A sessions with our invited guest and it was a thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended and a great way to finish our season off. We are very grateful to Tom for coming along and sharing his photographs and memories.
March 29th 2012 Dinner
Our guest at the March Dinner was Crawford Allan. Crawford qualified as a referee in 1991 and has moved up the ranks to become an SPL referee in season 2006/7and has officiated in over 20 European Champions League and Europa Cup matches.
Crawford was given the warmest of welcomes on to the stage not least for giving the Hearts a penalty (and denying Rangers one) at our most recent victory at Ibrox and what followed was a most refreshing and illuminating account of life as a referee.
First off we were treated to a short video of a referee training camp in Spain for all the top Scottish Whistlers. It was clear that they are all put through strenuous fitness regimes and whatever else they are, they are all extremely fit. Crawford explained that the SFA check their fitness and health levels using the same type of equipment as the top football clubs.
Next the members were all given a quiz on the rules of football. This is the same type of multiple choice questionnaire that is given to the refs by the SFA. Crawford admitted that even they do not get full marks but it brought home to all of us how difficult the job really is especially when decisions have to be immediate and without the help of television replay.
After a break for the raffle Crawford invited questions from the audience. A number of topics were covered in the time left including the penalty decisions at Ibrox, still fresh in the mind of members. Crawford explained his decisions clearly and stands by them despite the pressure of giving decisions against Rangers at a full Ibrox. A number of people wanted to know about goal line technology as well as the new idea of putting match officials behind the goals. Crawford gave an explanation on our ’goal’ at Tynecastle against Celtic recently saying it is very difficult for a referee to know if a ball has crossed the line and it is eminently possible that the assistant’s view is blocked by players on the line so perhaps goal line technology is the answer. Members were surprised how much communication technology is carried by the officials.
To sum up, this was an excellent evening where those present went away with much clearer idea on the fitness and knowledge require to be a top class referee and hopefully a lot more sympathy for the job they do. It was a most enjoyable and refreshing evening from an expert and well prepared speaker.
February 23rd 2012 Dinner
Our February meeting took place on the 23rd February when we were delighted to welcome as our guest. Charlie Mann. Charlie has been working in journalism and public relations for over thirty years and everyone will know him for his match reports around the grounds in Scotland which he seems to have been doing for ever. Charlie has a connection with Hearts, of course, as he was Mr Romanov’s press agent from 2004 to 2011 when he was Public Relations Director at Weber Shandwick.
Before taking questions from the audience Charlie talked briefly about his time at Hearts. Like many people he felt that the sacking of George Burley was a very bad judgement. He believes that with Burley at the helm and with the quality of players Hearts had in their first team there was a genuine reason to believe that that the Old Firm stranglehold on Scottish football could have been broken. He remembers particularly Hearts going to Livingston and in front of Mr Romanov scoring four goals in the first half hour with some scintillating football. Interestingly, he revealed that Burley was not confident that Hearts could maintain the challenge over the season and beat Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow. Charlie was vehemently opposed to the sacking of George Burley believing it to be a great mistake. Asked about the departure of Phil Anderton, he believed Phil to be a very slick operator with huge experience and great ideas on how to make Hearts a bigger club in Scotland and Europe and he again felt that his leaving was a major backward step in the development of Hearts. However the appointment of Campbell Ogilvie was a masterstroke and it was difficult to think of anyone with a better knowledge of how Scottish football works.
Despite these misgivings Charlie had a lot of good and positive things to say about Mr Romanov and his involvement with Hearts. While it is possible that he would sell the Club he does not believe he would sell to anyone who would not take the Club forward. Charlie is certain that given his past history, Mr Romanov, will not want to leave the Club having been considered a failure and leaving the Club in financial turmoil is not in his nature. Asked about plans for a new stadium for Hearts, again Charlie believes that this project is unfinished business for Mr Romanov and he expects progress to be made on this front. He emphasised several times what a great stadium Tynecastle is for watching football and how difficult it will be to re enact the Tynecastle atmosphere in a new stadium.
A question was asked about the ‘Riccarton Three’. Charlie considers this matter was badly handled by all those involved. Firstly, the players should not have gone to the press but should have gone directly to Mr Romanov. Secondly, the statement made by the players was badly translated to the owner and therefore there was a complete misunderstanding of the situation. The most regrettable result was the departure of captain Stephen Pressley to Celtic. Paul Hartley was always going to Celtic if he was given the chance and Craig Gordon also was inevitably going to move on to better things for a large transfer fee. In a similar vein, Charlie is opposed to Mr Romanov’s policy of not playing players with whom he is in dispute. The most recent example is Marion Kello and he believes that Kello is arguably the best keeper in the SPL and therefore Hearts are a weaker team without him.
The current problem at Ibrox was raised by the audience and in particular if Hearts will get the money due for Lee Wallace(around £800,000). Charlie’s reply was that under current rules Hearts would just be another creditor and may well not receive the full transfer fee or see the return of Lee to Hearts. The situation at Ibrox was extremely serious for Scottish football. Apart from the monies due by Rangers to other clubs for player transfers and gate receipts which is serious in itself, the money brought to other clubs by Old Firm fans as well as TV income is vital to the game in Scotland. This crisis has a long way to run and it is difficult to know where it will end. Charlie was emphatic that all Clubs in Scotland need support not just Rangers.
The members present gave Charlie a well deserved warm round of applause for giving us an extremely enjoyable, entertaining and informative evening
January 2012 Annual General Meeting Dinner
The Annual General Meeting of the Association was held on 26th January 2012 and attended by 111 members. We were very fortunate to welcome as guests, Sergej Fedotovas, Main Board Director, David Southern, Managing Director, and newly appointed Director of Football, John Murray.
After the AGM business was concluded our guests took to the stage to answer questions from our members.
The first questions on the minds of the members were directed at Sergej regarding the charges brought against the Club by the Scottish Premier League regarding non payment of wages. Sergej was clear and emphatic in his answer that the Club had fully paid all the wages due on 16th January to the players and staff and that the Club had fully complied with the SPL requests and the SPL had been hasty in charging the Club. During the past few months income that the Club had expected had not materialised and this had caused cash flow problems. The sale of Eggert Jonsson to Wolves had helped to ease the problem. He felt too that although 14 players had reported the non payment of wages to the Professional Footballers Association, the PFA had been over robust in trying to punish the club which was not the intention of the players. Sergej added that the Press had had their usual field day but the Club would be strong in their defence of the charges brought against them.
Asked about the transfer fee due from Rangers for Lee Wallace, Sergej replied that as with most transfer payments in football this was being paid in instalments and was up to date. A request to Rangers to pay quicker for a lesser fee was turned down by Rangers. Hearts were happy to wait for the full fee.
Sergej was kept busy with the next few questions regarding Mr Romanov putting the Club up for sale and again there was a straight forward answer. His understanding is that Mr Romanov would sell the Club to a party who have the capital to finance the debts of the Club and to finance the required investment in the Club. There has, he says, been several enquiries regarding buying Hearts but none are able to say how they are going to do this. The short answer to the question is that he would only sell the Club to someone who has the passion and the capital to take the Club forward.
John Murray was then given the opportunity to speak when asked about the youth players at Hearts. After thanking the Members for the £5000 donation John believes that we have the best under 19 squad in Scotland and several will make the move up to the senior squad successfully. Ryan McGowan and Scott Robinson have become a first team regulars and players like Jamie Walker, Chris Tobin and Kevin McHattie will get their chance soon. It is difficult, he emphasised, to expect these youngsters to play more than 20 games a season at first team level at their age. Players in the under 17 squad are also making progress. John added that a lot will depend on the number of players who leave the Club in January and at the end of the season but he firmly believes that the Club will be in a far better situation with a policy of developing our own young players.
David was given the opportunity to speak on Club matters. He answered questions on the impact of television on attendances. As David says, TV income is very important to all Football Clubs but it is extremely important to keep season ticket holders happy and coming back but there has to be a balance. The prices for cup ties have been set at a lower level to increase attendances and has been successful. There have been special offers for some league games to atract ,in particular, youngsters but he is mindful that season ticket holders are the main life blood of the Club and are paying full price for all games at the beginning of the season. He also advised that talks were ongoing with Edinburgh City Council about moving to a new ground within the City. No decision has been made but the costs and difficulties of remaining at Tynecastle will be difficult to overcome.
We were indeed fortunate to have three senior Hearts officials at our AGM who answered the varied questions from our members both very openly and clearly which made for another excellent and informative meeting and we thank them for taking time out from their busy schedules to come along.
Post Script. The following day the SPL announced they were taking no action against Hearts for late payment of wages.