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Hearts v Aberdeen: Midfielder will not use shortage of funds as an excuse for lack of league points

Money talks and Ryan Stevenson seemed to have heard enough when he left Hearts for Ipswich Town midway through last season.

Ryan Stevenson has urged his team-mates to turn their season around
Ryan Stevenson has urged his team-mates to turn their season around

The midfielder has since returned to find Tynecastle under siege from further financial concerns, but he has not allowed any of that to become an excuse for his side's indifferent start to the season.

Such a thing must seem frivolous to Stevenson, whose decision to leave Hearts last January was informed by the effect the club's wage problems were having on his pregnant wife. He was being paid late each month and she was suffering, so he took them away to England to continue their life in a more settled environment.

A lack of first-team action expedited his return to Edinburgh and the line he drew in the sand before he left is still visible. A greater austerity at Tynecastle has allowed players to trust the club to pay up on time – for the most part – even if their financial turmoil has since taken the form of a rather hefty tax bill. Hearts have been made to pay for a rather paltry return on the pitch as well, most notably in last week's Scottish Cup fourth-round defeat by Hibernian.

The club are also placed in ninth in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League but Stevenson is unwilling to use the club's off-field problems as a shield to the criticism that has followed. "Is there a tendency for players to hide behind problems? Probably. But do you want to do that? Do you want to look at yourself and use that as an excuse? I don't. I will not hide from it," said the midfielder, whose side face Aberdeen today.

"Do I want to use that as an excuse and say it's the money situation, it's this, it's that? No. It's not great but we're football players and we're paid to play. We love playing football and that's why we do it. Everything that's happened now with the tax bills and not getting paid needs to be put to the side and it's about the players stepping up."

Even if the squad are able to cover their eyes and ignore the turmoil, the club's board still have to look at the balance sheets and director Sergejus Fedotovas has warned of serious "consequences" if supporters do not cough up £250,000 in the next 11 days.

The Tynecastle club have raised £750,000 through their share offer which was launched on October 25 but that is still some way short of the original £1.79m the club had hoped to secure. The offer runs until December 19, and Fedotovas has lowered his expectations by urging fans to reach seven figures – or else more cuts will need to be made to address the shortfall.

"It is a great effort to bring in £750,000 and the fans should be proud of the achievement," he said. "But as I have stated on a number of occasions, we are still well short of reaching the target which was set at the launch of the share issue. There will be consequences if we fail to hit that target.

"We have to look at reaching £1m now. That is the next target and I think it is one that is realistic and achievable. Good work has been done over the last few weeks. Time is running out, though."

A home match with Aberdeen is well-timed then, while the future of the Tynecastle club will also come under further scrutiny when the Foundation of Hearts today step up their efforts to piece together a viable takeover bid for the club. They are to call on supporters to pledge money for the future running of Hearts.

The fan-led consortium, who claim to remain in "positive dialogue" with the club hierarchy, have produced 20,000 leaflets to be distributed before this afternoon's match at Tynecastle as they seek the financial backing needed to take their plans forward. Around 3000 fans have promised to help fund the bid already, although the Foundation have not accepted any money at this point.

The sense of togetherness this action is likely to foster among Hearts supporters will be crucial to the future of the club and to the success of a fans' buy-out, yet it could also have a more modest effect on the game with Aberdeen.

The atmosphere inside Tynecastle has fed off the threat to the club's future and Craig Brown is wary of how that will affect the Hearts players this afternoon.

"Hearts have a cause," said the Aberdeen manager. "They are galvanised. There is a feeling of persecution and when you get that at a club you have a cause to battle for. The fans are rallying round the team and the players are rallying round each other.

"It is like when you get a player sent off or concede a penalty you can see the teams trying to combat that by adding extra enthusiasm and impetus. You can imagine the atmosphere there will be very supportive of their team as it always is but even more so."

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