There’s more than one Russian zillionaire wielding considerable influence in British football. Sadly for the SPL’s Hearts, theirs isn’t named Roman Abramovich. From the Independent’s Nick Harris.
Senior advisers to the Heart of Midlothian owner, Vladimir Romanov (above), will advise “mediation not madness” as the solution to the crisis which led to a players’ revolt on Friday. But Romanov insisted yesterday that he has faith in his unusual methods, and senior players fear the Lithuanian millionaire intends to sell key members of his team, as he threatened he would if Hearts failed to beat Dunfermline on Saturday. They drew 1-1 at Tynecastle.
“I think it’s very serious if you’re going to make those statements,” said the midfielder Paul Hartley yesterday. “He’s got his point across and I think he’ll stick by [his threat].”
Hartley was present when Romanov made the threat on Friday morning, and later joined his captain, Steven Pressley, and the goalkeeper Craig Gordon as Pressley read a players’ statement saying that the club lacked “backing, direction and coherence”.
Hearts finished as SPL runners-up in May and won the Scottish Cup. “What happens next is not our decision,” Hartley said. “I’d like to stay but it’s not up to me.” He added that the players had “no plans” for further criticism. “I think we got our point across. We felt we had to say what we said.”
Romanov has had four permanent managers in 17 months and has alienated all of them by his interference in team affairs. Valdas Ivanauskas, the current manager, is in a spa clinic, taking two weeks’ holiday because of stress, leaving Eduard Malofeev, a Russian, in charge. He speaks no English. “I want to honestly tell you that Vladimir was never interfering in any football matters,” he yelled on Saturday, via an interpreter. “I don’t know where this idea comes from.”