|Jim Jefferies could utilise Andy Webster tomorrow in the game against Hamilton. Webster returned to Hearts last week following his release from Rangers, five years after an acrimonious departure under FIFA rules to exit a year before his contract was due to end. This did not endear Webster to Vladimir Romanov who had frozen the defender out of the Scottish Cup-winning team. However, Jefferies used his powers of persuasion to get Romanov to agree to the recruitment of Webster a second time. The Tynecastle manager believes the Scotland international's commitment to the cause was proven when he turned down better offers from elsewhere to return to Hearts on a two-and-a-half-year contract.
Jefferies said: "There was a lot of interest in him and he had some great offers. I know there were a couple of offers on the table, particularly one, which beat us. It just shows you he didn't do it for the money. He's come to the club because whenever he knew we were interested, this was the first club that was in his mind. The talks were easy, because he was so desperate to come back."
Webster was brought back to boost Jefferies' defensive options and compete for a place with captain Marius Zaliukas and Ismael Bouzid, who is out of contract at the end of the season. But Jefferies believes Webster, who first moved to Hearts from Arbroath in 2001, will be in contention to command a regular place in the starting side, perhaps even as captain. Jefferies went on: "When he became available it was important we got him. He's a quality player so he's got to be in consideration to start every game. He's not had a lot of matches, but the only way you get that is by playing. He's a good talker, he can bring on young boys. I think he's a natural leader, but we've got a very good leader at the moment in Zaliukas. If ever he's out we know Andy would want to be considered."
It will be interesting to see how the fans react to Webster when he first gets on the pitch. His departure in 2006 soured his relationship with the fans so he should be prepared for a sceptical reaction on his return. Asked how Webster would handle any dissenting voices, Jefferies said: "No problem. I talked to him about that and he said it wouldn't bother him. If that happens he's got to try and win them over by making sure when he goes on the pitch he plays well."