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John Robertson <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Charlie Richmond
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Hearts force Robertson out


JOHN Robertson left Hearts last night after Phil Anderton, the chief executive, failed to persuade him to accept a lesser role with the club. The option of staying on as assistant head coach was put to him at a three-hour meeting in an Edinburgh office, but in the end Robertson decided to turn it down.

A statement from the club said: "Heart of Midlothian Football Club has today parted company with head coach John Robertson. The move followed a review of football operations by the board which resulted in John being offered the position of assistant head coach in a revised coaching structure which he felt was unsuitable.

"Hearts chairman George Foulkes said he was disappointed that the club and John had failed to reach an agreement. The club has now started the process of recruiting a new head coach."

The future of Robertson’s assistant, Donald Park, will be decided today. If he chooses to leave, youth coach John McGlynn will take charge of the first team for the remaining two games of the season, against Celtic and Aberdeen.

Foulkes, who has been one of Robertson’s strongest advocates, said last night that the club’s parting with one of its favourite sons did not diminish his belief in Robertson’s potential to become an excellent coach.

"It isn’t any reflection of his professional capabilities," Foulkes said. "I think he has the potential to become a great coach, but perhaps at this time he is not quite able to take us to the heights for which we are aiming in the near future."

Anxious to avoid discord among the directors, Foulkes was stating what had become the consensus following Friday night’s lengthy board meeting. His own opinion, which was shared by Anderton and debated at length during that meeting, is that Robertson should have been given longer to prove his suitability for the job.

The two, however, failed to sway their fellow-directors. Crucially, the three directors who represent the club’s principal shareholder, Vladimir Romanov, said they had not seen enough evidence that Robertson was the man to help them achieve their ambitions - and Romanov himself was quoted by the BBC last night as stating: "I am not surprised he left as the team were not playing right".

Although Romanov did not take charge at Hearts until February, he already wielded considerable influence at the club when Robertson was appointed, and inserted a clause in the coach’s contract which meant his position would be reviewed in June.

After speculation in recent weeks about possible replacements for him, Robertson and Foulkes agreed that the review should be conducted sooner rather than later. The matter was therefore raised at the Friday meeting, where the former chief executive Chris Robinson, who retains a seat on the board, was outspoken in his criticism of the man he appointed in November.

Earlier, at a media conference to announce that Hearts’ on-loan striker Lee Miller was the Bank of Scotland Young Player of the Month for April, Robertson gave what amounted to a farewell speech. He had known since Friday that the board were not going to give him the vote of confidence for which he had hoped, but remained defiantly proud of what he and Park had achieved during their brief spell in charge of the club which both men had also served as players.

"Seventy-two hours... there’s not been a lot of sleep, but I’ve got too much in my heart for this club, for my players, the staff and the supporters, to let it affect me," Robertson said. "I’ve just tried to get on with work the best we can.

"The players have been fantastic from the moment I walked in here to just now at training this morning. They’re a very, very honest bunch of players. They’ve given us everything they’ve got.

"We’ve tried to change the style of play. I think the fans have warmed to it, the players have certainly warmed to it, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. The players must be applauded for the way they’ve kept focused during the recent weeks, and I’m sure they will do for the remainder of the season."

Despite only having been in the post for six months, Robertson said he did not regret leaving his previous post with Inverness Caledonian Thistle for Tynecastle, and added that he believed that he and Park had done enough to prove themselves.

"You learn from the amount of years that you’ve been in the game that nothing in football surprises you. There’s been a lot of soul-searching on different situations for weeks now. I was perfectly happy with the contract I signed. I knew about the review, but I had full faith in my ability, in Donald’s ability and the players’ ability to do the job.

"We’ve done the job. We’ve been in two semi-finals, we’ve won in Basel, which no other British team has done, and we’ve won at Celtic Park recently for the first time in five years.

"I would never have any regrets about joining Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Everybody knows what the club means to me. It’s a fantastic opportunity to come here and one I’m thoroughly enjoying."

The past few weeks cannot have been so enjoyable, as speculation mounted and the list of apparent candidates for his job grew. But Robertson said that over the decades he has been in the game he had learned to develop a thick skin.

"In football things happen. Change of ownership will always lead to speculation. If you take a high-profile job like this you’ll get speculation about players coming in and going out, so it’s only a matter of time that your own position comes under speculation.

"You know the rules, you get on with it, and I’m perfectly happy with how I’ve conducted myself at this football club."

Asked how he got on with the directors, he went out of his way to say something positive about two of them. "Phil Anderton has been very, very supportive, as has the chairman. So the people that I’m in direct contact with have been fine."

Board can't be trusted after pitiful insult to club legend

IT ALMOST beggars belief Hearts have reached the decision that one of Scotland’s most promising young coaches - who also just happens to be a club icon - is not to be trusted with the manager’s job at Tynecastle.

The departure of John Robertson six months after he was recruited to succeed Craig Levein will leave the majority of supporters and all fair-minded observers appalled by the lack of trust shown by Hearts in a favourite son, whose 310 goals for the club offered no immunity against wholly unreasonable expectations.

Vladimir Romanov built up an account of good will when he halted the move from Gorgie to Murrayfield. The proposed demotion and ensuing humiliation of Robertson, though, has breached that trust and left many asking what kind of values now rule the roost in the Tynecastle boardroom.

Although it’s possible to be critical of aspects of Robertson’s management since he moved from Inverness, the facts are Hearts reached the semi-finals of two cup competitions and performed respectably in the UEFA Cup.

Moreover, those results were achieved without almost half the side which performed so creditably under Levein. At the very least, Robertson deserved another year to bring in his own players and implement his own style.

When Levein joined Hearts from Cowdenbeath, the club finished fifth at the end of his first season and fifth a year later. It wasn’t until 2003 and 2004 that he was able to put his ideas into practice effectively and Hearts twice finished third behind the Old Firm. Why wasn’t the same benefit of the doubt shown to Robertson which was given to Levein?

As for how the split was handled, surely not since Jock Stein was offered the post of pools manager by Celtic has any Scottish club insulted one of its legends quite as pitifully as Hearts did yesterday.


Taken from the Scotsman

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