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Thomson situation must not affect Hearts, says Jefferies

Hearts manager Jim Jefferies is determined to prevent Craig Thomson's situation becoming a "sideshow" that affects the rest of his team.

The Jambos boss was speaking out after the club's decision to allow the defender to resume his career following a conviction for "lewd, libidinous and indecent behaviour".

The 20-year-old full-back earlier this month pleaded guilty, was fined and placed on the sex offenders register in relation to his inappropriate conduct towards two under-age girls over the internet.

Jefferies said: "There will be some games now where this gives us a situation.

"We have to make sure that if Craig ever gets back in the team - and let's not forget there's competition for places - how will he handle what's coming to him?

"We have to be sure as well because at the end of the day that's going to affect the performance of the rest of the players if it becomes a bit of a sideshow which gets out of hand."

Thomson stayed in Edinburgh while the rest of the squad headed to Italy for their pre-season training camp at the weekend.

Jefferies added: "This is the worst thing I've ever had to deal with. Of course, part of a manager's life is dealing with situations.

"You don't want your club to be associated with anything like this.

"You accept as a manager that you'll have to deal with problems along the road. But I have to be honest and say I've never felt like this.

"There's a big part of me that is sorry the player got involved because I knew what the reaction would be and he can't have any complaints because it was a bad, bad thing he did. He has made a grave error."

Former Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith believes it was correct that Hearts - rather than the football governing body - made the decision over the player's future. Smith - now director of football at Rangers - said: "It's the club's employee and the club has to deal with it as they see fit. "Who's to say that the association will know more about the situation than the club knows? "It's definitely a situation to be dealt with by the club. "If a player acts in a certain way, it's the club who should be dealing with it."

Hearts' decision to retain the services of Thomson has cost the club one of its sponsors.

MacB Water has announced that it has withdrawn its support as official water sponsor of the Jambos, a deal worth more than £5,000.

A MacB spokeswoman said: "As a company with strong family values, we are left with no choice but to terminate our relationship with the Hearts Football Club.

"Along with countless others, fans and co-sponsors alike, we are extremely disappointed with the club's handling of this situation and as a result can no longer continue our support."

A spokesman for Hearts said the club had no comment to make on the withdrawal of the sponsorship agreement.