Season over for loan defender but former City striker facing relegation

Norwich City defender was on loan at St Mirren Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Norwich City defender was on loan at St Mirren Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The Scottish Premiership season is over for Norwich City loanee Akin Famewo, leaving a former Canaries striker potentially facing relegation.

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) have announced the widely-anticipated decision following a meeting with all clubs, with the campaign determined on a points-per-game average - crowning Celtic champions for a ninth season on the spin.

Clubs reached a unanimous decision that the season could not be concluded earlier today, leaving Hearts and Naismith bottom of the table, having been four points adrift of Hamilton when football’s suspension began in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Canaries loan defender Akin Famewo has helped St Mirren to the relative mid-table comfort of ninth, having played every minute of 13 consecutive appearances since joining on loan in January, including a 2-0 defeat at Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals.

Last season Hearts had finished seventh with Naismith scoring 14 goals in 27 games while on loan from Norwich but this season the 33-year-old, who signed permanently after his City contract expired, has managed five in 21 matches after the first half of his season was ruined by injuries.

Former Norwich City striker Steven Naismith is facing relegation with Hearts Picture: Paul Chesterto

Former Norwich City striker Steven Naismith is facing relegation with Hearts Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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However, the Edinburgh club have left open the possibility of legal action to the decision, saying in a statement: “We have stated from the outset that we don’t believe it is right that any club should be unfairly penalised because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Hearts will shortly submit a member’s resolution that we believe is a pragmatic solution to the issues the game currently faces and a way forward that the clubs can unite behind.

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“It is our belief that this resolution, if supported, will provide an opportunity to avoid disproportionately disadvantaging - financially and otherwise - any club.

“The club has been taking legal advice throughout this process and are continuing to do so.

“We hope that the resolution being prepared will avoid the need to go down this route. Legal action would be both time consuming and expensive. However the cost to the club of relegation would outweigh these considerations.”

SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, who held the same role at Norwich between 2001 and 2009, said of today’s announcement: “On Friday, Ladbrokes Premiership clubs expressed their clear and unanimous view that there was no realistic prospect of completing the outstanding fixtures from season 2019-20.

“The SPFL board met this morning and in line with the express agreement of member clubs in April, the board determined that league season 2019-20 and the Ladbrokes Premiership be brought to an end.

“This decision now enables us to pay out around £7million in fees to help clubs stay afloat during this incredibly difficult time. We will begin processing these payments immediately.

“The focus of all those involved in the game will now turn to how we get football up and running again safely as soon as possible.

“Nobody should be under any illusion as to how complicated and difficult a challenge it will be to return Scottish football to normality.

“We will be liaising with government on the best way forward and working to ensure that all of our 42 clubs are playing football again as soon as humanly possible.”

Leagues below the top flight in Scotland had already been brought to an early conclusion but discussions about a potential restructuring of the SPFL have been played down for the time being.

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