Craig Wighton says he was banished to the reserves by Hearts before he even spoke to Dunfermline about a pre-contract agreement.
The 23-year-old – who has confirmed he also held discussions with Hamilton Accies – was told during the January transfer window he had no future with the Jambos.
With Robbie Neilson claiming publicly Wighton remained in his plans, the former Dundee striker claims he had already been ordered to train with the second-string, who sometimes had as few as three players taking part because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He says a loan move away was also offered – as long as it was not to Dunfermline, Dundee or Raith Rovers because of their proximity to Hearts in the Championship table.
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It all added up to a frustrating end to nearly three years at Tynecastle for Wighton.
But he is glad his commitment to join Dunfermline in the summer was quickly followed last week by Hearts allowing him to join the Pars on loan until then.
‘I was told at the start of January I wasn’t in their plans’
He said: “I was told at the start of January that I wasn’t in their plans and to find something else, and that I was training with the reserves for the rest of the season.
“That’s what I was doing there for the last four or five weeks, training with the reserves.
“That was frustrating. There were days when there were only three or four boys training with the reserves.
“I know he [Neilson] has said different but I was told at the start of January that I wasn’t in their plans.
“This was before we had even spoken to clubs about a pre-contract.
“Obviously we then started looking and Dunfermline came up, and we got the pre-contract done as quickly as we could with a view to going on loan in the January.
“At the start, they told me I could leave and go on loan but that I couldn’t go to Dunfermline, Dundee or Raith because they are the rivals.
“Then, we got the option of Dunfermline and we were trying to get it done as quickly as we could.
“Hearts didn’t want me to come, but then they changed their mind. I’m happy it got done and it means I can get settled before signing in the summer.”
Wighton netted seven times in 15 appearances for Hearts earlier this season, including a hat-trick in the Betfred Cup win against Raith, a late winner away to Arbroath and a crucial Scottish Cup semi-final strike in the win against rivals Hibs.
But it was not enough to convince Neilson he deserved to be part of the club’s plans for the rest of the campaign, never mind beyond the summer.
Time to move on
He added: “The season before I wasn’t playing and I could understand it a bit more.
“But I think I’ve done well enough this season when I’ve played, especially when I’ve played through the middle.
“I thought I had done enough in the games I played, maybe not enough to earn a contract beyond the summer, but enough to at least be in the plans until the end of the season.
“That was frustrating because when I played I did well enough, but it’s up to the manager at the end of the day and he didn’t agree with that.
“Football’s ruthless at times and I’m sure it won’t be the last time it happens to me in my career.
“But I think it does give you extra motivation.”