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Skacel bid rejected but Hearts sign striker

RUDI skacel's hopes of a third spell with Hearts suffered a setback yesterday when the club's efforts to re-sign the talismanic midfielder were rebuffed by the Scottish Professional Football League.

The Tynecastle club will not be permitted to register the Czech until they come out of administration and transfer sanctions are lifted. They were allowed, however, to bring in the 20-year-old West Ham striker Paul McCallum yesterday on a one-out, one-in basis following the sale of Adam King to Swansea City.

McCallum, a 6ft 3in forward who has scored goals on loan at Torquay, Wimbledon and Aldershot, could make his debut in the League Cup quarter-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Sunday after joining for the rest of the campaign.

Hearts believed they had opened the door to Skacel's return by cancelling the player registration of their goalkeeping coach Alan Combe but the SPFL board explained their reasons for refusing the request in a statement: "In relation to the application to register Rudi Skacel, the board considered a range of factors, including the fact that 34-year-old midfielder Skacel was being proposed to replace a 39-year-old goalkeeper/goalkeeping coach who has not appeared on any first-team squad list in any Premiership match for Heart of Midlothian this season."

Bryan Jackson, the Hearts administrator, said: "I am grateful to the SPFL for the speed and fairness of this decision which allows Adam King to be swiftly replaced with Paul. We are disappointed that the application for Rudi Skacel was rejected but understand the reasons for the SPFL's decision."

Skacel's arrival would probably have been sanctioned had the midfielder Ryan Stevenson, one of the few senior first-team players, agreed to leave Tynecastle. Stevenson has been the subject of interest from the Romanian club CFR Cluj, St Mirren and Partick Thistle but he has pledged his future to Hearts.

The 29-year-old, who returns from suspension against Inverness, said: "There's been offers put on the table for me but I said a couple of weeks ago that I was happy to, hopefully, spend as long as I possibly can at Hearts and my mind never changed.

"I didn't think it was right to come out as early as last week and say things and be disrespectful to people, so I've sort of been biding my time and now I'd like to put it to bed. I'm going to be here for as long as I possibly can.

"Everything about the club has me smitten, even more so this time with the situation and the way the fans have been in keeping the club going. The task that we've all been forced into is something that I'm happy to be part of, I'm grateful to be part of and I'll hopefully be here to get Hearts back to where they should be.

"If Hearts were playing on the moon then I'd be playing on the moon with Hearts. I wanted to make a stand and I wanted to say that I'd be here for a while and that's firmly the case.

If I'm lucky enough and blessed enough to be here until the end of my career then I'd definitely do that."

While Hearts fans will be disappointed that Skacel's return has been put into abeyance, their counterparts in Inverness will have been heartened yesterday by news of the possible return of their own totemic player. Richie Foran, the captain, has been absent for almost six weeks since suffering a serious shoulder injury against Aberdeen. Now in his sixth season with Inverness, his return, even to the bench, would amount to a significant psychological boost to John Hughes' side.

Inverness have won only once in the last six matches without their captain, picking up two draws and suffering three defeats. Hughes yesterday suggested that Foran was unlikely to be fully ready to play but stressed normal rules didn't always apply to the inspirational Irishman.

"Richie has trained all week with us and he has been flying into tackles. I still feel it might be a little bit early for him but, then again, it is Richie Foran we're talking about here. He has had that wee, wry smile on his face since last week. I think he knows his own body and feels his recovery is more advanced than the physio has said . . . It might be a little bit early for him butwith Richie Foran normal rules don't always apply. We'll give him right up to the last minute."

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