London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Craig Thomson
[L McCulloch 62] ;[K Boyd pen 91] Kevin Thomson
2 of 012 David Witteveen 30 L SPL H

Political moves unlikely to be well received by club owner Romanov

Stuart Bathgate
CSABA Laszlo is a clever man. An astute tactician on the field, he has also displayed some political adroitness since becoming manager of Hearts.
He is proud of the fact that he is the longest-serving manager of the club in the past five years, and attributes that to his ability to deal diplomatically with club owner Vladimir Romanov. That ability may be partially due to Romanov's decreased enthusiasm for or interest in the club, but Laszlo does deserve credit for being a more sophisticated politician than some of his predecessors.

It remains to be seen, however, how his comments at yesterday's press conference at Riccarton are perceived by the club's owner and by the board of directors who do his bidding. While announcing that he had so far declined to sign a new contract, the manager interlarded his remarks with compliments about Romanov, but it is far from a given that the businessman will be so flattered by those blandishments that he agrees to shell out on the new striker which the club badly needs.

Indeed, given his preference for keeping internal matters behind closed doors, Romanov may react badly even to the fact that his manager has spoken about the contract offer. What Laszlo actually said could even be regarded as only a secondary offence.

It certainly appears unlikely that the owner will bow to any groundswell of support for Laszlo which is expressed either today in the media, tomorrow by the Hearts support or in the coming weeks by the players. If the manager chose to speak out yesterday in the belief that he could exercise such leverage on Romanov, he was being too clever for his own good.

Laszlo's suggestion that his reputation was now good enough to ensure that he could find another job in Scottish football if he left Hearts is also unlikely to help his cause. The way the club improved under him last season is a matter of record – they went from eighth the previous season to third – but it is by no means agreed that the manager was the sole or even the primary cause of that improvement.

The squad were in disarray in season 2007-08, and given their inherent ability it did not take a genius to get them playing better. Laszlo gave evidence that he has a profound understanding of the complexities of football, but players such as Bruno Aguiar, Christophe Berra and Christos Karipidis were a cut above most of their counterparts at other SPL clubs, and even a modest injection of enthusiasm and organisation would have helped them improve to an extent.

Those three are no longer at Tynecastle, and this season could represent a truer measure of Laszlo's abilities as a coach, presuming he stays at Hearts. The squad is now less talented, less experienced, less able to react quickly to his cajoling. If he is not given the resources to strengthen it, he will probably need to do something exceptional if he is to take Hearts to a third-place finish again.

The club's next two games could go a long way to convincing Laszlo of where his future lies. If Hearts lose badly to Rangers tomorrow, and if they then fail to salvage at least a modicum of pride in next Thursday's Europa League play-off second leg against Dinamo Zagreb, the manager could become so frustrated that he decides once and for all that either he gets a new striker or the club gets a new boss.

If he sees no sign of improvement in those matches, he could conclude that a long, hard season awaits him. And he is clever enough to know that, if Hearts begin to slide down the table compared to last season, his own reputation will be adversely affected. These are still early days in the new season, but they could also be the last days of Laszlo as Hearts manager.

Taken from the Scotsman

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