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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Tom Dunsmuir auth-> Steve Conroy
Stewart Michael [D Cadamarteri pen 3] ;[D Cadamarteri 86]
6 of 018 ----- L SPL A

Csaba Laszlo has high hopes for Hearts

Tom Dunsmuir

Privately, if never publicly, Csaba Laszlo will admit that mistakes made in Heart of Midlothian’s past may prove detrimental to his plans for their future.

These are changed days at Tynecastle. The exorbitant wages bestowed on the likes of Mauricio Pinilla, Mirsad Beslija and Juho Makela — crucially, for next to no return — are a thing of the past.

The new, streamlined Hearts allowed Christos Karipidis, Robbie Neilson and Bruno Aguiar, three of their best performers from last season, when the club finished third in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, to depart under freedom of contract in June. Replacements have arrived — Hearts have actually been among the most active clubs in Scotland during the transfer window — but Laszlo has been frustrated in his bid to bring in more Scottish talent due to a newlyimposed salary cap.

Lee Miller, the Aberdeen striker, and the former Motherwell midfield player, Stephen Hughes, were prominent on a list of targets that the manager submitted to Vladimir Romanov, the Hearts owner, before the end of the last campaign. Hughes promptly joined Norwich City on a reported weekly wage of £7,500, some £3,000 more than Hearts will now pay, while Miller seems destined to follow several of his former team-mates to the Coca-Cola Championship.

Five players have arrived in Edinburgh’s maroon half in the close season, all on free transfers. A deal to bring Ilco Namauski, the Macedonia international striker, to Hearts faltered on Monday, Laszlo revealed yesterday. “Definitely, we were close to signing a contract with Namauski,” the manager said. “The guy, according to my knowledge, has decided to go to Spain instead.

“It was close, everything was ready. Now this is finished and we must look for other possibilities. At the moment the market is not so rich for strikers with no transfer fee. We will keep looking for the best solution.”

It remains open to conjecture whether Romanov lacks sufficient funds or interest to spend further fortunes on wages. Hearts’ costs peaked in excess of £12 million, far in excess of turnover, with a more obvious rationale for today’s stringent approach simply that the business must become sustainable. In blunt terms, Romanov has been badly burnt by high earners who contributed little or nothing to on-field success since the Scottish Cup victory of 2006 and, in his defence, Hearts are still the third-best payers in Scotland.

Plans for a redeveloped Tynecastle main stand remain afoot but are likely to be scaled down considerably from the initial £51 million project touted. An amended planning application may even be submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council with this in mind.

Laszlo, though, has plenty of cause for pre-season optimism. The presence of Andrew Driver, injury troubles aside, and the Spanish recruit, Susa Santana, mean Hearts are one of the few sides in Scotland’s top flight to boast out-and-out wingers on both sides of the field.

Meanwhile, Lee Wallace, the full-back, had genuine cause to wonder how Callum Davidson, of Preston North End, was selected for Scotland’s visit to Norway ahead of him. Wallace, who enjoyed an outstanding finish to last season, may well be the next money-spinning export of his club’s youth system.

Among those who should challenge Hearts for third place this season are Hibernian, who in Rob Jones and Steven Fletcher have lost their two best players over the summer, and Aberdeen, whose manager, Mark McGhee, has been surprisingly open regarding fiscal hardships at Pittodrie.

At Hearts, a club where off-field shenanigans have proved second nature in the past four years, this has been a serene summer. The biggest debate has surrounded who will captain the club — Michael Stewart was confirmed as Laszlo’s choice yesterday — while the departure of Anatoly Korobochka, the director of football, barely registered to the outside world at all. What may prove notable is if Romanov can, as he hopes to, formalise his relationship with the former Chelsea manager, Avram Grant.

Laszlo’s bargaining position with Romanov and any replacement for Korobochka will be improved by progression to the Europa League group stage; Hearts face the first leg of a treacherous qualifying tie against Dynamo Zagreb on Thursday. Before that comes the Premier League opener against Dundee United at Tannadice.

“The important thing for us is to have a good start to the season,” Laszlo added. “If you get off to a good start then you can build on it.

“The first few matches of the season are not easy ones for us. We play Dundee United in the first game, then we have to travel to Croatia a couple of days later and when we come back we have a game against Rangers.

“This is biggest problem for us at the moment for our preparations, because the time is very short. But we will try to handle the situation as best we can.”

Taken from

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