London Hearts Supporters Club

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Paulo Sergio <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> William Collum
[S Robertson 24]
16 of 030 -----L SPL A

Fedotovas the balm to Romanov’s bombast

Published on Monday 21 November 2011 00:55

AFTER the self-indulgent rants from Vladimir Romanov over the last two weeks, Sergejus Fedotovas’ interview on the Hearts website at the weekend was a welcome and necessary contribution to the debate on the Tynecastle club’s future.

An intelligent and dispassionate analyst, Fedotovas has been Romanov’s right-hand man in Scotland since before the takeover of Hearts, and is likely to be the last man out of the building if and when the current owner sells up.

That position means he is worth listening to when he outlines Romanov’s exit strategy from the club. The other reason is that, right now, there is no other realistic option on the table. No consortium able and willing to bid for Hearts is anywhere close to being in place, and until one appears, Romanov’s rule will hold sway.

It should therefore be reassuring to Hearts supporters when Fedotovas says he does not have a timescale in mind for the sale of the club or indeed for some of the other changes to be carried out. Some players may leave in January, others in the summer.

The implication is clear. There will be no fire sale. No rush to offload the entire first-team squad whatever offers come in; no slashing and burning before a disorderly flight.

If Fedotovas is to be believed – and he has never yet misrepresented his employer’s intentions – Romanov aims to leave Hearts in as healthy a state as possible. If this is to be viewed as Romanov’s retreat from Scottish football, it will at least be an orderly one.

But, having said that there is no urgency to offload a specific number of senior players, Fedotovas has also made it plain that Romanov cannot wait for ever. As Hearts’ unpaid players are painfully aware, times are tight and Ubig, the group in which the Lithuanian has a controlling interest, can no longer sustain the extravagance which has seen millions thrown at the club over the past seven years.

So how viable is this exit strategy? For a start, which players are expected to go in January, and what will be the terms of their departure?

Rudi Skacel is out of contract early in the New Year, and goalkeeper Janos Balogh is thought to be the only other senior player whose deal is up at that time. Saying goodbye to those two will cut the wage bill a little, but the way Romanov and Fedotovas are talking it is likely that several more will be expected to join them. Whether they do will depend on how reasonable Hearts are when it comes to negotiating transfer fees.

Ryan Stevenson has already been linked with Derek McInnes’ Bristol City, and seems sure to head south. Modest and hard-working, the attacking midfielder has been an exemplary professional since joining from Ayr United, and is more than deserving of the chance to show what he can do in English football.

Stevenson could fetch a few hundred thousand, David Templeton and Marian Kello perhaps a little more. But apart from those three, who could command a reasonable transfer fee?

When fit, Andy Webster is one of the most important members of Paulo Sergio’s team, but the first two words are the important ones. Fitness would also be a concern for anyone interested in recruiting Andrew Driver, for whom Hearts reportedly turned down an offer of £300,000 from Burnley.

Danny Grainger and John Sutton have proven themselves to be reliable performers at SPL level, and other Scottish top-flight clubs could be interested in them. But again, much depends on how hard a bargain Romanov tries to drive.

And of course a lot also depends on how desperate for cash Ubig are. They have told us that a cash-flow problem has been the cause of the non-payment of players’ salaries, but have yet to quantify that problem. Until they do, we will not know how many players they need to get off the books in January, and whether they may even resort to paying off the contracts of a few simply in order to get them off the wage bill.

If at all possible, rather than throwing most of the under-19s into the senior squad, they should err on the side of caution. Allow a few players to go at the turn of the year, but, for the sake of the continued existence of Hearts as a football club, wait and see how a handful of youth players shape up in the first team before seriously depleting the senior ranks.

But it is Romanov who will decide if it is at all possible. He has been capricious in the past and could be so again, for all Fedotovas’ calm, well-measured words.

Taken from the Scotsman

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