JAMIE HAMILL did not blink when asked to slash his salary to help Hearts stave off bankruptcy.
However, the former Jambos favourite never dreamed history would repeat itself just seven years later.
Hamill, Ryan Stevenson and Kevin McHattie represented the the first wave of players who agreed to 50 per cent pay cuts following the Edinburgh outfit’s dramatic descent into administration in the summer of 2013.
He had no qualms about the decision as fans, staff and administrators BDO all banded together to avoid liquidation after the ruinous rein of Vladimir Romanov had left Hearts with debts of £25 million.
But Hamill was stunned to see the same drastic measures taken this week, with owner Ann Budge – the woman who, along with fans’ group Foundation of Hearts, rescued the club from collapse in 2014 – preparing for the loss of income caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Hamill said: “I had a real affinity with Hearts and the people there. Jim Jefferies showed a real desire to take me there, showed me around and gave me an opportunity to play for a huge football football club.
“I appreciated that and, when the time came, I wanted to give something back.
“The supporters were digging deep and pulling together and we could all see what a tough financial position Hearts were in after Romanov pulled the plug. It was a team effort to try and save the club.
“Guys like myself Ryan Stevenson and Kevin McHattie decided to take cuts because no-one wants to see their club in big trouble.
“So it’s disappointing when you see the news come out of the club now – and it’s worrying.
“Having watched them come through administration you do think ‘well, those sorts of cuts are never going to happen again’, especially with the size of the club and the infrastructure they have in place there.”
While Hamill didn’t flinch when the time came to reduce his salary, the Stranraer defender is adamant the current crop of Hearts are well within their rights to consider their options.
Budge has taken a blunt approach and told all staff to either agree to the wage drop or ask for their contracts to be terminated and, while some may think footballers are immune to the same monetary worries as the general public, Hamill has underlined what a massive decision it is.
Speaking from experience, Hamill continued: “Fifty per cent is a HUGE drop.
“Players still have bills to pay, mortgage and car payments to keep up. These are all in keeping with their regular earnings. So it is a big decision and it’s too simple to just say ‘do this for the club’. It’s real life.
“It is fundamentally unfair because you sign for a club and they’ll say ‘you need to honour a contract’ then, suddenly, it’s ‘we’re taking 50 per cent off that otherwise the deal is null and void’.
“The players will be looking at the big picture and trying to judge the vital signs. It’s not about the biggest earners in this situation, you are looking at the younger boys and the guys who aren’t on big wages.
“They’ll be thinking ‘can I afford to lose half my salary?’
“What if they were to say no, take their release and then don’t get anything else? It’s such a difficult decision and there’s no right answer.”
Hamill departed Hearts at the end of a traumatic 2013/14 campaign which saw them relegated, and noted: “Everyone will want to help the club and hope that their loyalty is repaid when things are good but, let’s be honest, in football that isn’t always the case.
“There is a no guarantee the boys who take a wage cut would be looked after down the line.”
Hamill also reckons Hearts’ woes should serve as a warning for the rest of Scottish football, with the harsh realities of several months without revenue streams likely to hit hard.
He added: “Ann Budge has steadied the ship over the years but she has clearly decided that drastic measures are needed without gate receipts and other income.
“It’s her job to look after the club and that’s what she thinks needs to be done.
“That’s also concerning for the rest of Scottish football. If these are the measures Hearts are having to take, then what is going to happen to other teams like Kilmarnock or Hamilton?”