HEARTS have offered stern condemnation of those they believe to be hampering the club's attempts to meet their tax liabilities, railing against Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the "dreamers" and "opportunists" who are hampering their ongoing battle for survival.

The forceful statement came as the Tynecastle outfit announced that their share issue offer has raised £600,000 in under a month, one-third of the way to a target of £1.79m by December 19. That milestone has been achieved, say they club, in spite of "stern barriers" which have impeded their efforts. HMRC last week agreed to a payment plan which would defer the £450,000 bill owed until December 3, but the revenue services are scheduled to take the club to tribunal over a disputed £1.75m fee.

Although Hearts neglected to name the "opportunists, dreamers and self-publicists" alluded to, two bids for the club have been made public in recent days. Last Tuesday, Hearts said they had rejected a "note of interest" in the club worth around £450,000 from a consortium led by Edinburgh businessman Alex Mackie. Angelo Massone, the former owner of Livingston, also had a £4.5m offer on behalf of his group of unnamed investors rejected on Monday.

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The club statement read: "[Fans'] commitment so far is all the more impressive given the stern barriers that we have had to overcome along the way. Whether that is demands from tax authorities, opportunism from those interested in making a quick profit for themselves, or the self- publicists and dreamers who value themselves more than the club. Our message to them is step aside, we have work to do and this work is for the club and nothing but the club. Anything else is simply an unnecessary distraction."

With interest in the club from the Foundation of Hearts and Massone's group unlikely to abate, the Edinburgh club have insisted they will not rush into an ill-advised sale. The statement continued: "The next four weeks are crucial to navigate the club into safer waters. We believe this can be done but it will not be done at any cost. We will not allow this club to fall into the hands of people who may have ulterior motives. The responsibility that comes with running a club that has more than 100,000 people backing it at key moments is not taken lightly. It must not be taken lightly by those thinking about purchasing the club.

"By selling out matches, the club benefits from improved income that will help us to pay players and staff. There is still a great deal to be done and we must keep up the good work that is happening in order to maintain our recovery plan and see us through to the end of the season."