Matt Hancock’s sustained attack on footballers and their salaries seems so long ago now that you’d expect his words to require carbon dating for proof of when they were actually made. In actual fact, they were made a little more than three weeks ago.

The Premier League’s megastars have, in the interim period, demonstrated a good deal more in the way of benevolence and recognition for the mood of the nation than MPs – who willingly accepted a £2500 pay rise last month – in general and the Conservative party – errant PM and all – specifically.

In England, a host of players past and present have launched fundraisers or donated sizeable sums to charity. In stark contrast, it must be noted, to the hedge-funders and bankers.

Marcus Rashford, who was dependent on school dinners when he was growing up, has helped to raise more than £20m working alongside a charity called Fanshare which provides food for disadvantaged children. So far, 600,000-plus meals have been distributed.

Elsewhere, the Scotland captain Andy Robertson made a huge donation to six foodbanks – four in Glasgow and one each in Rutherglen/Cambuslang and East Renfrewshire – and also made an “extremely generous” payment to mental health charity Back Onside last month.

There are many more examples, but less so in Scotland itself and further down the leagues in England. And with good reason.

It’s fairly clear that Scottish footballers (and lower-league players in England) are not in the same postcode when it comes to the earnings made by their counterparts in the top flight down south. When some key factors are taken into account, it is no surprise that there has been pushback from players following suggestions by employers that wage deferrals are not an option (yes, we’re looking at a club in Gorgie here).

Those uncomfortable truths for the ‘footballers-are-overpaid’ brigade? The average professional footballer’s career lasts around eight years. By the time this crisis ends, the timeframe in question might amount to between 3.1% and 4.1% of their total career earnings. Furthermore, their peak years are short, encompassing a few years in their mid-20s and come two decades sooner than most of the UK’s workforce; in some cases their commitments extend beyond their immediate dependents and into the extended family. They are vulnerable, too, to peer pressure and to circumstance: demographics show that young men are the societal group most likely to take risks with their finances.

The undermining of Scotland’s professional footballers by public figures has been less obvious but Anne Budge, the Hearts owner, has been a stealthy operator in this domain.

When Budge issued her first statement on the Coronavirus crisis and the looming impact for her club, I was broadly in sympathy. A club that knows all about hard times financially was insulating itself against the fiscal uncertainty that the crisis was about to bring.

Non-playing staff were to be placed on furlough and soon after the players, too, were encouraged to take advantage of the government’s job retention scheme. What was the club supposed to do? No one could have foreseen the predicament that they found themselves in.

As recently as Friday, Budge was re-emphasising the importance of good stewardship of the club saying “I cannot – and will not, in good conscience – leave the club in a position again where football debt is left as a ‘legacy’ for those who follow.”

That being the case, you wonder just what the thinking was behind signing 12 players in two transfer windows. Presumably, in the first instance, it was with the intention of making a push for the European places and then latterly to stave off relegation. We now know which of those outcomes would have been the most likely but perhaps some of the key decisions made over manager and the director of football might have had something to do with the club’s failure to achieve its initial aim.

A sizeable recruitment drive also casts a shadow on Budge’s claim that the players have benefited from the payment structure that Hearts operate, suggesting they have not had “to worry about being injured or not being selected and some of them have had quite a lot of that benefit”.

Just as Budge will feel that none of this is the fault of the club, the above scenario she paints is not of the players’ making either. If they were signed rashly and subsequently deemed to be not good enough or what a manager required of them, is that their fault? Similarly if they benefited from payment during injury – let’s face it, not exactly what defines munificence in 21st century football – again, are they to blame?

And, really, the nub of the issue is this: More often than not, poor performance on the pitch is simply a manifestation of poor governance off it. If players select certain clubs over others because the payment terms are preferential whether through an enhanced salary or better guarantees, there is a reason for it. That’s how it has always worked; and, in turn, the teams offering the better terms tend to get those better players because they are attempting to challenge for Europe or go the distance in a cup.

It is the very definition of what a contract provides – a mutual understanding, enshrined in law, of what each party brings to the table. It cannot be thrust under noses at a later date as a stick to beat people with. Budge may well force through clause 12, which states that contracts may be suspended if players refuse to accept a pay cut of between 10 and 30 per cent without cause for recompense, but she can have no complaints if Hearts players pursue the means to force through free transfers as a result.