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David Southern blasts SPFL crocodile tears as former Hearts chief pinpoints explosion of 'football family' dream

Daily Record logoDaily Record 01/07/2020 Ross Pilcher

David Southern has slammed the “crocodile tears” shed by SPFL clubs for Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer.

The former Tynecastle chief believes the reaction of other clubs since court action was announced has exposed the idea of a “football family” as myth.

Hearts and Thistle’s joint legal petition will be heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh this morning, when it will be decided if the challenging of their respective relegations is a matter for the courts or to be arbitrated by the SFA.

Former Hearts managing director Southern believes many of their rivals have shown their true colours since the Jambos and the Jags decided not to accept their fate lying down.

And that talk of co-operation and working together for the great good was just that.

As a result, they could regret dismissing the concerns of Ann Budge and Jacqui Low.

a man wearing a suit and tie © SNS Group a person posing for the camera: Ann Budge will lead the talks © SNS Group Ann Budge will lead the talks

Southern told Record Sport : “There were a lot of crocodile tears for Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer.

“Stranraer have been a bit forgotten in this. Partick not so much but there have been a lot of crocodile tears for all three of them.

“As has been the way in Scottish football for years, people then just turn their back and move on. Invariably there doesn’t tend to be any consequences.

“But given the gross injustice that there’s been here, you can’t blame Hearts and Partick Thistle for taking this legal route.

“It’s very unusual but you certainly can’t blame them. I saw Craig Gordon ’s comments and I’d just back up what he said as well.

“To underestimate Ann and Jacqui Low, you do that at your own peril. I know both of them and they’re good operators in their own business world and also in football.

a person sitting on a table © SNS Group

“Football’s fluid – it’s difficult to be right or successful all the time – but in this case, they’re completely justified to go legal.

“There’s not really been any comfort from many clubs or people within the game so they had no choice.

“Over the last few weeks the narrative has been, ‘let’s move on, we must move on, let’s talk together, work together and be the football family’. There is no such thing as the ‘football family’.

“As much as certain clubs and club chairmen want to cover their tracks, I’m afraid it’s not going to be possible until the court case is heard and judged one way or another.”

Hearts’ decision to fight the drop by legal means sparked an immediate response from the sides that were promoted as a result of the season being called early.

Dundee United, Raith and Cove have launched their own, separate actions to try to ensure they’ll remain in a higher division.

But Southern, who was chief operating officer at Tannadice between 2014 and 2019, is adamant no one would have had to lose out had the initial resolution on whether to end the campaign early not been bungled so badly.

He said: “I honestly believe that the right decision should have been taken on April 10.

“The mistake that was made then was that the reconstruction debate should have been included in that resolution.

Neil Doncaster wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Neil Doncaster is pleased with the cash becoming available to clubs © Rob Caset/SNS Group Neil Doncaster is pleased with the cash becoming available to clubs

“In terms of the money being distributed and the league being called to an end, there shouldn’t have been relegation.

“That was completely unfair. But I also believe that promotion should have happened.

“So there is still an opportunity and it’s within the SPFL’s power to carry it out, for a 14-10-10-10.

“It’s still there, it still exists and it would have avoided the unnecessary move to the courtroom. So it’s whether people see sense.

“But positions are entrenched now so it’s unfortunate. But Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer have basically been cornered, the only route out for them is now via the courtroom.

“They’re completely justified in taking it outwith football because as I said, there’s no such thing as the football family. It’s one of these myths that exists.

“It’s a very couthy thing to say and a very convenient thing to say when it suits your particular agenda in the game.

“But it doesn’t exist and we’re finding that out. The supporters of not just Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer but of all clubs across the country, are finding out that there’s no such thing as the football family.

“It’s very unfortunate that they’ve had to go to court but it’s very necessary.”

Should it be the Championship for Hearts, Southern believes they’ve made the signing of the summer in Robbie Neilson as the man to get them out of it quickly.

Robbie Neilson holding a phone © SNS Group

He said: “The scale and stature and Hearts would’ve been a huge draw to him.

“It’s very secure, he’ll have a good budget and will be well backed by Ann.

“I honestly think it’s one of the best signings of the summer transfer window.

“I worked with him at Hearts when he was a player, when he started as a coach with Ann.

“I helped bring him in with Mike Martin, chairman then at Dundee United and he was first class.

“First class as a player, first class as a coach and first class as a manager. He will do a very good job. It just so happens he’s seen as a Championship specialist, which is unfair.

“I believe that he could take his place at pretty much any team in Scotland.”

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