London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Charlie Richmond
[T Buffel 9] ;[M Andrews 42]
13 of 019 Marvin Anthony Andrews og 84 L SPL A

Dream dies for Tynecastle legend

Stuart Bathgate

ON ONE side there is the dream: a multi-million-pound stadium, full to the brim with happy Jambos, home to a team who have shattered the hegemony of the Old Firm. On the other, there is the reality: a club which is playing out the season in fifth place, before moderate crowds, and now without a head coach.

The chasm between that grand vision and the mundane reality is one reason why Hearts parted company last night with John Robertson.

If the head coach had at least emulated his predecessor, Craig Levein, and claimed third place in the Scottish Premier League and the UEFA Cup spot which goes with it, he might just have been able to hang on to his job into next season.

But, at least for the time being, that gap is also one of credibility. And that is a reason why many Hearts supporters will wake up this morning feeling despondent about the loss, after only six months in the job, of a man who was the club’s most feted player of recent times.

True, Vladimir Romanov and his Lithuanian colleagues who now control Hearts have delivered on the promises they made when they were negotiating to buy a controlling stake in the club. Despite widespread scepticism about their ability to come up with the goods, they bought a shareholding of nearly 30 per cent and were able to strike a deal with the club’s creditors which has kept Hearts at Tynecastle.

But, to paraphrase Sergejus Fedotovas, Romanov’s chief negotiator, what they have done so far is implement a survival plan for Hearts. What it needs is a development plan - and, while the plan is no doubt in place, the everyday reality for the club is at present further away from the dream than it has been at any time since Romanov took over at the start of February.

Romanov has helped bring new talent to the club, but at the same time has been unwilling to shell out a modest sum to secure the services of Lee Miller, the striker who is currently on loan from Bristol City. As a result, a certain pessimism has crept back into the Hearts support, especially with Chris Robinson, the former chief executive, still on the board of directors as a reminder of the bad old days.

At least until a credible replacement for Robertson is found, that scepticism will remain. The most common position held by the fans is that Robertson may not have been the perfect coach, but he deserved more time to grow into the job than the six months he was given.

George Foulkes, the Hearts chairman, is one who held that view. Phil Anderton, the chief executive, concurred with Foulkes, and last midweek the two appeared confident they would also win the approval of their boardroom colleagues.

On Friday evening, however, it became apparent their confidence had been misplaced. The Lithuanians explained they were unconvinced that Robertson was the man to lead Hearts into the brave new world they have in mind for the club, while Robinson offered more vehement opposition to the coach.

The former chief executive owes his continued presence on the board to Romanov, and therefore has limited influence. He made sure his feelings on Robertson were perfectly clear, however, and at one stage wanted a vote to be taken.

Robinson knew that such a vote would go his way, but, with policy at Tynecastle ultimately decided by Romanov, a show of hands would mean nothing in itself. It might, however, cut short the meeting (which eventually lasted for six hours) or cement a split between Foulkes and the Lithuanians.

Although Robinson is still expected to leave the board at the end of the season, he retains his capacity for disputatiousness, and it is easy to believe he would be happy to make life difficult for Foulkes and Robertson, having fallen out with both. He and the chairman began as ostensible allies when Foulkes was appointed in April 2004, but soon differed over the future of the club. Foulkes sided with the supporters who were campaigning to stay at Tynecastle, while Robinson tried to push through his plan to sell the ground and move to Murrayfield, where Hearts would be tenants of the Scottish Rugby Union.

Robertson’s support for the Save Our Hearts campaign was one cause of his disagreements with Robinson, but other smaller operational matters also came into play after the coach was appointed. Robertson, for example, believed that Robinson could have secured the services of Miller back in January, rather than merely getting the striker on loan; and he wanted to sign Stevie Crawford, only to find that Robinson would not agree terms with the player’s agent.

But, while Robinson might therefore be happy to see the coach go, his role should not be overestimated. As with any public limited company, power at Hearts ultimately rests with the shareholders, and, with just under 30 per cent of the shares, Vladimir Romanov is effectively in charge.

In the end, Robertson went because Romanov’s men on the board - his son Roman Romanov, Fedotovas and Liutauras Varanavicius - did not believe the coach could bridge the gap between the dream and the reality. They would ideally like a coach who has widespread experience of European football as well as a working knowledge of the Scottish game, and Robertson simply fails to live up that ideal.

Taken from the Scotsman

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