Foundation of Hearts
As the fight to save HMFC goes on, the fans are digging deep in more ways than one
Times are tough, for most. The summer holidays for those lucky enough to have had them will most likely have caused a sandcastle sized dent in the old bank balance.
Kids, for those with a family, are starting back at school, resplendent in their new uniforms, at least for the hour or so it takes for the shoes to be scuffed or knee to be torn from some playground mischief or other.
The money isn’t grudged, but those shiny new schoolbags don’t pay for themselves. It’s just a fact of life.
As Edinburgh shook under the Sunday winds, thousands of pounds literally going up in smoke as the annual fireworks marked the end of the festival season, the sun was long gone in its bed.
And there she will stay ever longer, as the air chills over and ushers in the return of winter.
In times of austerity, who knows just how long and how cold it might now be.
Yet as the city’s sons and daughters worry about job security knowing full well that Christmas will be on them before they can say Ho, ho, ho; as its OAPs toss their last coin to decide whether to eat or stick and extra bar on the fire; they will embark on a journey they can probably ill afford on Monday, September 2.
The date will see bank accounts across Auld Reekie debited with a few pounds here and a few more there, as The Foundation of Hearts begins to draw down on the monies pledged to them by these men, women and supporters who would rather go without themselves, than see their beloved Heart of Midlothian FC founder.
Fans across the land pledging cold, hard cash to help what has become a huge fan led effort to buy back their club after it was driven close to oblivion by former owner, Vladimir Romanov.
It is an extraordinary generous, humbling and moving thing to comprehend.
Of course there are many with the means and the disposable income to stand up and be counted. However much they have pledged.
But it has to be remarkable that 7500 ordinary people have been willing to put their own hands in their pockets not just once, but for as long as it takes or they can afford.
And still more sign up.
Why? The uninitiated ask. What is it that drives the pensioner to part with what little they have? Why does the workman register a direct debit that will curtail their Friday night sup?
How do those balancing a budget at the best of times find the capacity to support their clubs in such terms?
Quite simply - because going without a little now is nowhere near as devastating to their lives as what might happen if the club was to close forever.
Hearts FC isn’t, and never has been, just about the football. It’s much more than that.
It’s an employer, customer, entertainer, educator, activist, traveller, optimist, social club.
For some it’s the hub that brings it all together.
It forges relationships that sees brickies and bankers, coppers and cons, Lords and layabouts rubbing shoulders whenever Saturday comes.
The socially retarded, the painfully shy, the loud and brash, the loners and the social butterflies all have a place here.
It supports the bars where everybody knows your name, at least for a time. It boosts the buses which are packed to the gunnels on either side of kick off and full time.
The cafes and chip shops, the programme sellers and fanzines, charity tin rattlers and coach firms, are all touched by its aura.
It’s blessed relief at home for some, a few hours to themselves to get on with life while the rest of the house shouts itself hoarse.
Yet its the epicentre of the world for others, the only chance they have of company, kinship and escapism. For others, a day to look forward to with friends, relatives and fitba.
It’s also the stuff of dreams for the young boys and girls taking their place wide eyed in the stands, mesmerised by the spectacle, as each and every one was at some point in their maroon tinged lives.
For some the love affair with Hearts had been fractured. They’d grown tired of the madness that had engulfed it. The same conversation about Mad Vlad.
At times it felt like it wasn’t their club anymore. That they’d wasted all those years to be left with was a rotting husk of what used to promise so much.
Hearts fans of a certain vintage have supported their club in spite of the football.
They were always a team of triers, jubilant if the players could put one over on the ‘big’ teams now again, but expectant of less.
Yet they were held on the thrall of former manager George Burley’s side as his charges swept all before them. It was cruel, unnecessary, because it made us believe.
Now we know what a house of cards it was founded upon. Yes, we have had the cup and all the memories that go with it. Yet anyone who saw that side must wonder, what if …
Despite this, how many fans are only now feeling like they have got their club back because they watch the blood, sweat and tears of those plucky youngsters who are in today’s team?
Does any fan believe those boys will be doing anything else than aching today at the loss to Inverness? Emotionally as well as physically.
Against Aberdeen, when they clinched a deserved victory despite being outnumbered and on paper outgunned, they couldn’t have made those watching more proud.
They lined up again and again, like some kind of prize fighter, soaking up all the famous could through at them.
If one fell down, another had their back. They played, they acted, like a team. A team that refused to die while it has the fans standing there alongside them.
The wisdom of docking a team 15 points in the league before a ball was even kicked at a time when it is fighting for its life, frankly defies logic. But these players will not be phased.
They will only try harder, as will those around them.
How Gary Locke’s nerves must be shredded, the debutant manager with the old hand of Billy Brown working for free to aid the cause.
The former players volunteering to help out at training. The kids who have taken a wage cut. The companies who have turned a blind eye to past debts. Scottish football who, with the obvious exceptions, must surely be rooting for these brave laddies to come out of this with something other than the pride they so far deserve.
The love for Hearts is there for all too see. Emotion, counts for much. But it is strategy and business acumen as much as brawn and luck the club needs.
It’s easy to forget that the Foundation of Hearts isn’t a new entity, it’s been a couple of years since some like minded people pulled themselves together for this day. Desperate times called for desperate action.
But by God, look at the momentum it has now.
You can’t help but admire the likes of Ian Murray MP and all those involved in the movement — there’s no other war to describe it — for harnessing it.
You have to take your hats off to the fans groups who have united like never before to help make this happen.
But most of all, you cannot have anything but respect for those men and women, young and old, fat and thin, who open up their bank accounts on Monday morning to let action replace the form of words.
That number is worth revisiting again. 7500 people. Imagine how much more will be achieved if that number can swell to 10,000. Think of the difference it could make for the business case that will be argued, the aspirations of where the club goes next. In helping keep those gates open.
Tynecastle has had it’s fair share of dramas on and off the pitch over the decades. It’s had highs and lows. The fans have laughed and cried. And one day, no doubt, will all be able to read a book about this.
So if this is their story and this is their song, the next chapter is the one they simply cannot afford to get wrong.
On the evidence of the last few, tumultuous weeks, that seems very unlikely.