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End of Tynecastle's little big man.

Hearts decide MacDonald has no part to play in future plans

james traynor

11 Sep 1990

WALLACE Mercer preferred to dress it all up in frilly words, but no matter which way the Hearts chairman put it, the bottom line is Alex MacDonald yesterday was sacked.

The Tynecastle club believe they have outgrown the little man who led them back from first-division football, and from the brink of anonymity.

Hearts have taken only one league point from three matches, but the pressures which forced the dismissal of the manager, who has been suspended on full pay for three or four weeks, have their origins in other sources, and not recent performances.

Indeed, when Mercer spoke of MacDonald and the contribution he has made to the club's revival over the last 10 years, the terms used were not so much glowing as positively alight.

At times during conversation with the chairman, one wondered why the manager had been sacked instead of being promoted to president of the organisation.

It was only as Mercer continued that it became clear the club no longer felt MacDonald's thoughts were in tune with the big wide world outside the premier division.

There is a bigger playground out there, one in which Mercer would like Hearts to be playing.

Word of MacDonald's fate had been on the grapevine only a matter of hours and already speculation as to who would succeeed him had started.

Bristol City's Joe Jordan, a manager whose European experience fits one part of the Mercer's job description, was being given a good airing.

Alex Ferguson also cannot be ruled out.

The Manchester United manager would have been wanted by Mercer had the chairman been successful with his takeover bid for Hibernian.

Money would have been no object had he decided to move for Ferguson.

Mercer said emotions could not be allowed to interfere with Hearts' development, and he revealed that MacDonald, who took the decision with dignity saying only that he was sad for the fans that he had not given them a major trophy, might not have been the only high-level casualty.

The chairman has offered his own resignation to fellow board members within the last few days, but was asked to carry on.

He is happy to do so and has now promised more money, which means the likes of Ferguson again could become a live possibility.

However, he stressed he has no one in mind, which will not go down too well with the faithful, who are growing restless because of the team's poor form.

Mercer suggested it was partly because he did not want to hear them howling for his manager's removal that yesterday's action was taken.

Mercer said.

"He's a victim of his own success," he added, but there were more telling lines to come.

"In our view, the job got too much for him and some of his colleagues." One of those colleagues, Walter Borthwick, who was assistant manager, has been dismissed, but another, Sandy Clark, who was in charge of the lesser teams at Tynecastle, will manage the first team until a new man is appointed.

Clark now faces an Edinburgh derby on Saturday and a UEFA Cup-tie in Russia next week.

"Alex is a super bloke," Mercer wished to point out, "but he is linked to the Jock Wallace era." Obviously Mercer and his directors -- the decision to put a new man at the helm was unanimous -- want a manager more universally attuned, and they say they are prepared to go anywhere to get him.

It became clear yesterday that Hearts are not pleased about the influx of foreign players.

Mercer and his men have looked at their own squad, and wondered why they have no Dutchmen, Poles, or Yugoslavs.

Without mentioning him by name, the chairman referred to Pieter Huistra, who scored Rangers' first goal at Tynecastle on Saturday, and remarked that he had cost only £300,000 or so, and yet is still able to make an impact on Scottish football.

"We have to sit down now and work out where exactly Hearts want to go from here," Mercer said.

"We will look at the leagues in Britain and see who could be available.

But we could look abroad.

We have to look everywhere."

It is no secret Mercer believes bigger things lie ahead for a handful of British clubs equipped to take advantage, and he doesn't want his team to be left behind when that particular ball starts rolling.

He made it clear that his new manager will be a big name and he is undaunted by the realisation that top liners command mighty salaries and perks.

Also, any newcomer worth his reputation will want to buy in new players.

It seems the chairman has grown weary of fronting a club which so far has done no more than flirt with glory, and even though time may prove him and his directors right in yesterday's manoeuvres, they can expect a difficult few months, starting on Saturday when they go to Easter Road for the first Edinburgh derby of the season.

Hearts' international striker John Robertson said last night: "It's a scandal and a disgrace.

MacDonald sweated blood for this club and gave it the professionalism it has now."

Taken from the Herald

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