SPL board to discuss Hearts crisis

Celtic manager Neil Lennon may rest a number of players for

Sunday’s final game of the SPL season away to Dundee United as he

looks to keep his players fresh for the Scottish Cup final with

Hibernian.

He also has injury problems to overcome, with defender Charlie

Mulgrew ruled out with a knee injury.

Right-back Adam Matthews is a major doubt as he is struggling

with a knock, while striker Lassad Nouioui remains on the sidelines

with a calf injury.

United striker Johnny Russell looks likely miss out as he is

still suffering from some stiffness having recently returned from a

broken leg.

Long-term absentees Gavin Gunning and Sean Dillon remain on the

sidelines.

But Keith Watson and Barry Douglas could feature at Tannadice

Park after injury to boost manager Jackie McNamara.

The SPL board will meet to determine whether Hearts should face

sanctions over the apparent financial collapse of their majority

shareholder, UBIG.

The club could still face an 18-point deduction – and instant

relegation – if it is decided that SPL rules have been breached by

UBIG’s declaration of insolvency.

UBIG was on Thursday listed on a Lithuanian government website

of insolvent firms after reportedly declaring itself unable to meet

its liabilities.

The firm owns about four-fifths of shares in Hearts and SPL

rules can lead to points deductions if an owner suffers an

insolvency event.

The SPL has been consulting with its lawyers over its rules and

whether UBIG’s action breaches them.

The league has made no comment but it is understood the timing

of events will be crucial – if the developments of the last two

days are deemed to be an insolvency event which breaks the SPL

rules, then the punishment will be a points deduction this

season.

However, court action is needed to trigger an insolvency event

in Scotland and the lack of news about any court proceedings in

Lithuania could work in Hearts’ favour.

The relationship between UBIG and Hearts will also come into

consideration. The club will argue that they have been

self-sufficient since early last year so have not benefited from

the funding of an insolvent company this season. However, they owe

UBIG about ?10million of their ?25million debt.

The cost-cutting measures continued at Tynecastle this week when

19-year-old right-back Fraser Mullen was told he would not be

offered a new contract in the summer despite making eight

appearances this season before a broken foot ended his season in

March.

But Hearts midfielder Jason Holt insists his former youth-team

colleague will have no trouble picking up a new club.

He said: “It’s disappointing as Fraser is a good mate of mine.

We came through the youth team together but it’s not my decision,

that’s down to the club.

“I spoke to him the day he found out. It’s one of those ones

that he just needs time to take it in. He’s a good lad and I’m sure

he will not be short of offers.

“He’s a good player so I hope he does go on to bigger and better

things once he’s fit again from his injury.”

Holt and fellow Gorgie youngsters Callum Tapping, Jamie Walker

and Kevin McHattie have all made the most of the club’s financial

strains to grab first-team slots.

The club could yet put even more focus on their younger recruits

amid fresh concerns that developments in Lithuania could force the

club into administration.

But Holt knows such a crisis could yet open the door for other

youngsters, just as the 20-year-old found this term with 21

first-team run-outs.

“Being a young boy growing up watching Hearts and going to the

games, it’s a dream now getting the chance to play for the team,”

Holt said.

“It’s been a massive season for us young lads coming through. We

knew that for a lot of us it would be a chance for us to make the

breakthrough.

“I’ve managed to get a decent number of games under my belt.

Next season I’m looking to push on with a good pre-season under my

belt and make it a better one than my first.

“I’ve grown up a lot this year. Everyone will tell you that when

you move into first-team football that happens. You are dealing

with older people and the experience aspect comes into it. There is

a lot of pressure on your shoulders and you have to deal with

it.”

Hearts round off their season with a trip to Aberdeen tomorrow

but last week’s Edinburgh derby defeat to Hibs is still painfully

fresh in Holt’s mind.

Holt said: “Sunday’s defeat was a massive blow for me and

everyone at the club, the fans as well. The players know we weren’t

good enough and we will be looking to put the right next

season.

“It felt worse than losing the cup final. Both were huge blows

but on Sunday it was an Edinburgh derby, both sets of fans were

there and we just didn’t perform well enough on the day. It’s

really disappointing because we let ourselves and the fans

down.”