Friday, February 11, 2011

Andy Webster: Winning Over Hearts and Minds?

One thing - one of the many things - that the Scottish Football Blog might occasionally lack is a "view from Gorgie."

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. But I've never been a Hearts fan.

Thankfully, in this week of guest posts, Scott McIntosh has been and always will be. So who better to turn to for the inside track on the return of Andy Webster to Tynecastle.

An interesting move for Webster. He'll certainly not want for motivation in Edinburgh with both Rangers and any doubters in the Hearts support to prove wrong.

Andy Webster: Judas or the Second Coming?


There aren't many things in life I make a point of organising my working and personal life around.

The FA Cup Final? Definitely! New episodes of Dexter on Sky? Goes without saying! Xmas episode of Eastenders? Less so!

Even after considering the pros and cons (of which there are many) of the January transfer window I would have to include it as an event that has me glued to Sky Sports News and football forum sites across the world wide web on a hourly basis up until the SFL deadline passes at midnight on the final day of the month.

As a Hearts fan I have experienced some memorable transfer activity from the mass influx in 2006 which saw our squad strengthened by twelve new additions to the barren years of more recent times.

This year was viewed by most of a maroon persuasion as one where we would happy just not to lose one of our prized assets and had no expectations of additions being made to the current team.

The 2011 window was reaching a quiet conclusion when all of a sudden news filtered through that former Hearts centre half and current number one panto villain, Andy Webster, had been released from a contract at Rangers which still had six months to run and was on the verge of a return to Tynecastle.

Here is a day to day account of how his return panned out and my own personal views of his possible return.

Monday 31st January: Webster is officially released by Rangers after three years and a handful of appearances for his boyhood team. He did enjoy a very productive year long spell with Dundee Utd in the 20009/10 season which ended with him lifting the Scottish Cup as captain in his final game for the club.

Possible theories as to his release include Kyle Bartley sealing a loan switch from Arsenal to Rangers and a breakdown in swap deal with Dundee United involving Craig Conway moving to Ibrox.

Early reports from the Daily Record suggest Webster will sign for Hearts but no comments are made by Webster, his agent or from anyone at the club.

Tuesday 1st February: Jim Jeffries breaks his silence on the possibility of Webster returning:

"It's not about what happened in the past, it's about the future. He's a quality player who would improve us. If we are fortunate enough to get him back here he'll be a good signing and the owner recognises that."

Reports suggest that Webster has had offers from England and city rivals Hibernian but will meet Jeffries to discuss terms.

At this point fans forums reached meltdown with many debating whether a deal would be a good thing for Hearts considering the circumstances surrounding Webster's departure from the club in 2006 when he used a legal loophole to serve notice of his intention to leave the club at the end of the third year of a four-year contract.

That was the first time the rule had been invoked since its introduction and the whole saga left a bitter taste in most fans mouths and is still felt to this day.

It was only a few weeks ago that Webster had been booed whilst warming up in front of the main stand at a recent Hearts v Rangers match. Cries of "Judas" had become a regular feature of any match Webster featured in against the men in maroon since his controversial exit.

I hold my hands up and can honestly admit to venting my feelings on more than one occasion such was my contempt towards how I felt Webster had treated a club that plucked him from lower league obscurity and nurtured him into a international class defender and one of - if not the - best centre back to turn out for Hearts during the past decade.

My feelings towards him were so bitter that it led to me cheering upon hearing of him being seriously injured during his first training session with Rangers.

By now a possible return had become the number topic among most of my friends.

Wednesday 2nd February: Ironically a match between Rangers and Hearts was due to take place this evening but the game was taking a back seat to talk and further debate regarding Webster returning.

Would it benefit the club?

Would the fans who had just a month earlier goaded him accept him back?

I would like to think that in the time since his departure I've learned to look at football from two angles now, the fans side which centres more around tradition and showing loyalty to your club and the view from most writers and ex-players which is that football clubs are run as businesses in today's world and the idea of player loyalty is fast becoming passe.

The match itself was a tame affair with few talking points so the bus ride back home along the M8 consisted of more Webster chat.

As I sat slouched in my seat a feeling of acceptance and a positive take on the transfer was now filtering through most supporters but one question remained: Would the "Judas" return?

We wouldn't have to wait long for our answer.

Thursday 3rd February, 18:54pm: As I approached my work I received a text from a friend and fellow Hearts fan informing me of the official signing of Andy Webster on a two and a half year deal.

Rather than a feeling of closure on this subject I felt that it was only the genesis of the whole saga.

Until he runs out onto the Tynecastle pitch in a maroon strip again, we can't say for sure what response he will receive from the home crowd.

The only thing I can say for sure is this issue will be one that divides opinion for a long time to come, or at least until he pops up with a late winner at Easter Road.