Relegated Hearts braced for survival fight

05 April 2014 11:46

Hearts manager Gary Locke says the club's biggest battle is still to come following their relegation from the Scottish Premiership.

The Jambos were condemned to the second-tier Championship despite coming from behind to secure a 4-2 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill on Saturday following St Mirren's dramatic 3-2 win against Motherwell.

Two late goals for the Buddies sealed a 3-2 win that left Hearts, who were docked 15 points at the beginning of the season for entering administration, 17 points behind Thistle at the bottom of the league with just five games remaining.

It ended a 31-year stay in Scotland's top flight and is a further blow for the cash-strapped Tynecastle club.

They are under the threat of liquidation unless Monday's meeting of their Lithuanian creditors agrees to transfer the majority shareholding of their parent company UBIG to a fans rescue group bankrolled by Edinburgh businesswoman Ann Budge.

She is offering to buy the shares for around £2.5m on behalf of fans' group Foundation of Hearts, with the long-term aim of handing over control at Tynecastle to supporters.

The majority of the money would go to Ukio Bankas, which has a 28.79% stake in the club and holds a charge on Tynecastle Stadium.

Creditors for UBIG and Ukio Bankas are due to meet again on Monday and Hearts manager Locke hopes they will finally ratify a proposal to transfer the shares.

"We faced a big battle today but our biggest battle is Monday and everyone connected with the football club is just desperately praying that everything goes well. It's the biggest day in the club's history; there is no doubt about that," Locke said.

"There's nothing I can do. Bryan Jackson and Trevor Birch (the club's administrators) are working tirelessly behind the scenes. They will be over there in Lithuania and hopefully they can get a deal done.

"I'll have the phone sitting beside me all day. It's not a day I'm looking forward to but if we can get a positive outcome we will certainly be happy people come Monday night."

- Hearts' liquidation threat -

If a deal can't be done it could spell liquidation for Hearts, whose administrators say they only have enough money to keep the Scottish Premiership club running until the end of April.

"I'm not thinking of that at all. I've said all along this season that I'm trying to remain as positive as I can be," Locke said.

"We've had a lot of knocks but I'm a positive person and I'm really positive we can get this deal down and Heart of Midlothian will be back where we belong and that's at the top end of the SPFL."

Meanwhile, Celtic manager Neil Lennon said his side don't get the credit they deserve following their comfortable 2-0 win over Dundee United at Tannadice.

The Hoops took a fifth minute lead when Georgios Samaras applied a fine finish to a Kris Commons free-kick for only his fifth league goal of the season.

Anthony Stokes then fired past the helpless Radoslaw Cierzniak in the 24th minute to deal Dundee United's hopes of claiming third place and a European spot a major blow.

The victory at Tanndice was Celtic's 28th win of the season in an all-conquering campaign that has seen the Glasgow giants wrap up the Scottish Premiership in record time with seven games remaining.

Lennon's side have lost just once in their league campaign but the Celtic manager feels his players' achievements are sometimes overlooked.

"I think sometimes people take Celtic for granted. I don't and told that to the players before the game and I told them it afterwards," said Lennon.

"I think what is overlooked at times is how good we are and we wanted to put a marker down for the rest of the season."

Source: AFP

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