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

Robertson departs with dignity intact

Stuart Bathgate

JOHN Robertson is convinced he will go on to prosper as a coach despite losing his job at Hearts. Indeed, speaking at a farewell press conference at Tynecastle yesterday, Robertson even refused to rule out a return to his dream job, quoting the old cliche, "You never say never".

Given his attachment to the club which he graced as a striker, such a statement perhaps verged on the inevitable. It was also an indication, however, of the dignity with which he has handled his departure.

Had Robertson opted either to wallow in self-pity or to stoke the flames of the fans’ resentment, he could have refused to have any more official connections with the club.

Instead, he appeared yesterday alongside chief executive Phil Anderton, who along with the chairman George Foulkes had argued the case for Robertson against the rest of the board of directors. Anderton bade a decent and genuinely rueful goodbye to the coach. And Robertson himself, besides asserting he would thrive in his chosen profession wherever he ended up, wished the club every success.

The key for the board as a whole, though not for Anderton personally, was the belief that Robertson could not deliver the required rapid progress at Hearts both on and off the field. The chief executive and Foulkes had said they believed Robertson deserved longer than six months to show he could contribute to that progress, but the Lithuanians who now effectively own the club thought otherwise.

With no successor immediately apparent, Hearts are running the risk of drifting throughout some of the close season. Robertson, however, said he hoped that, when a new appointee did take over, he would help Hearts fulfil their grand ambitions.

"I’m very disappointed, obviously," he said when asked how he felt to have been given so little time in his dream post. "But, as Phil said, the club are now going to embark on a new era, with new owners and a new coach. Everybody knows what Heart of Midlothian Football Club means to me, and I hope the new coach comes in and takes Hearts boldly into the new era, and that they continue to be a success, because that’s what we’re all after."

Once it became apparent that Hearts thought he was not up to the job of leading the club into that new era, the choice for Robertson was whether he should hang on and play second fiddle to an as-yet-unidentified head coach or director or football, or back his own abilities and seek employment elsewhere. For a man who in his own way is just as eager to get on as are the Hearts board, it was basically no choice at all.

"We had a very frank and honest discussion, and Phil offered me the coaching position which I didn’t feel was the right move for my development," Robertson explained. "I wouldn’t say my decision was immediate, because everybody knows what the club means to me."

If, as is expected, Donald Park, his assistant coach, also leaves Hearts in the coming days, the pair will seek to revive their partnership elsewhere in Scotland. Vacancies exist at present - notably at Dunfermline Athletic - and such is the nature of the game that more will arise over the coming weeks and months. They will not be out of work for long.

That probability, plus whatever financial settlement he reached with Hearts, may have softened the blow for Robertson, but had he wished to nurse a grievance he would not have had to look far to find one. He had never, for instance, seen eye to eye with the Lithuanians, and had even more reason to resent the behaviour of Chris Robinson, the former chief executive who remains a director.

"I can’t comment on what was said at the board meeting because I don’t know," he said when asked to comment on suggestions that Robinson had attempted a virtual character assassination of him at that meeting on Friday evening. "The board have made a decision and as far as I am concerned I will respect that decision. They’ve done what they think is best, and as I’ve said before Heart of Midlothian Football Club will go on a lot longer than individuals, and that is the most important entity in this whole affair.

"It’s not soured me at all. Football’s all about development and experience. You’ve got good times and bad times. If reaching two cup semi-finals, winning in Europe and beating Celtic at Parkhead is deemed a bad time, then I’ll let the bad times roll.

"I felt the team were making progress. I feel I’m making progress as a head coach and I’ve absolutely no doubt whatsoever that I will be a big success in this game. I’ve made mistakes, but I was learning quickly."

The closest Robertson came to criticising the club, in fact, was when he said that major shareholder Vladimir Romanov would have to invest substantial sums in the attempt to catch up on the Old Firm if Hearts’ ambitions were ever to come close to being realised.

"If they really want to compete at the top level with Celtic and Rangers it’s going to take a substantial amount of money. Hopefully Mr Romanov will back up his claims that he wants to challenge the Old Firm by releasing that money to the board and to the new manager."

Taken from the Scotsman

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