Andrew McKinlay stressed that Hearts have no plans to sell Lawrence Shankland in January as he expressed “slight bemusement” at the level of negativity surrounding the Tynecastle club.
There has been concern among supporters that the Jambos could cash in on talismanic captain Shankland, who has scored 40 goals in 18 months since arriving from Belgian club Beerschot.
The 28-year-old Scotland forward is contracted to Hearts until summer 2025 and chief executive McKinlay does not expect him to leave the club in the upcoming window.
“There’s a lot of speculation about Lawrence, but I can categorically say that no one – agents or clubs or anyone – has said anything to us about Lawrence leaving in January or has approached us,” he said after Thursday’s AGM.
“There has been absolutely nothing on the subject. We are totally dealing with conjecture. We are not looking to sell Lawrence in January.
“If someone comes in with an exceptional bid then we’d have a duty to consider it as a board but it’s been self-evident in the last number of games just how important Lawrence is to the club.
“Hence it would take an incredibly-exceptional deal for us to even think about it.”
McKinlay and the Hearts board were questioned at the AGM by supporters about the decision to appoint the inexperienced Steven Naismith as manager, style of play and recruitment.
The CEO acknowledged concerns but believed some of the gripes were not befitting of a team chasing European qualification for a third-consecutive season.
He indicated that results – and not necessarily performances – would dictate whether 37-year-old Naismith, the Premiership manager of the month for November, remained in a job.
“It’s not all negative,” said McKinlay. “This idea that it is, I find unfortunate. Do we want to play in a better style and score more goals? Of course we do.
“Our record defensively, which we were criticised for last year, we’ve tightened that up.
“Defending is a huge part of the game but we know we have to get better going forward and be more dynamic and score more goals.
“Steven is a football person and he understands that it’s a results-driven business. It’s as simple as that, we all understand that.
“I still have confidence because I look at the fixtures coming up, I look at some of the players we haven’t had available to us, I also understand the difficulties of some of the foreign players settling in.
“None of these things are taken into account. I get that. People want instant success.
“I am confident Steven can turn the corner. But we’re talking as if we are down in the relegation zone.
“We are one win away from being third and we have a game in hand, at home. If we won that game we’d be third so I’m just slightly bemused by some of the things we’re talking about given that.
“But I do understand the frustration, which I share myself, with some of the performances and some of the style of play.
“It’s a results-driven business and that’s how we’ll be measured.”
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