Date: 15th June 2007 at 1:40pm
Written by:

Amidst all the recent speculation of who might become the next manager of Hearts, a very good point was raised by our Jambo friend from Stockport about Vladimir Romanov’s reasons for perhaps not wanting to appoint a ‘big name’ in the post.

The point is this: most, if not all managers in this category, whether that be Lothar Matthaus, Nevio Scala or perhaps even George Burley, are going to view Hearts as a stepping stone to the English
Premiership or somewhere of that standard. Now, this may not be the worst thing in the world from a short-term point of view, as these guys will have a strong motive to achieve great things during their time with Hearts to get them where they want to go, but Romanov has long maintained that his time with Hearts is intended to be a long one and with that in mind, any key appointments being made are being done so for the long-term.

This therefore means that Romanov is on the lookout for someone who is prepared to commit to Hearts and not simply see them as a stopping off point, whereby they’d jump ship as soon as a better offer came in. Now we all have our views on the how the George Burley affair went, but one of the rumours that refused to go away at the time of his departure was that he had been speaking to other clubs about potential moves away from Hearts in the future. Perhaps therefore, Romanov has been put off going for managers of Burley’s ilk because he feels he cannot trust them to be loyal to the Hearts cause.

This would explain the appointment of someone like Graham Rix, something that made absolutely no sense at the time given our apparently lofty ambitions then. Talks had been held with the likes of Bobby Robson and Claudio Ranieri about taking over from the departed Burley, but in the end we ended up with Rix, a man without a proven track record as a manager and someone who came with considerable baggage. It was a hell of let-down for an expectant support, but it was his personal drive and the fact that Rix genuinely wanted the job so much that saw him being appointed ahead of the others.

Regardless of how things went during Rix’s subsequent tenure, it does seem pretty clear that our club’s owners place loyalty above everything else. I’m not sure that this is a good thing with regards to running a football club, though. Don’t get me wrong, if it is the case that the Romanovs are genuinely big on loyalty, then that’s very honourable and morally correct from a human decency point of view. But the world of football is a very peculiar one and although like most businesses, you do need to form a long-term view to achieve sustained success, I do think that Hearts could benefit more from being realistic about things.

If Hearts do want a manager good enough to win us league titles and get into the Champions League proper, then they are going to have to appoint a manager with the necessary credentials to do that. This means, almost certainly, appointing someone whose ambitions are more than just to be the manager of Hearts. And I would argue that having a guy like this at the helm can be as healthy for the club as it can be unhealthy, as his drive and ambition could easily push those of the club forward as well.

In Burley’s case, perhaps he would have left us after two or three seasons, but in that time we could (and I emphasise, ‘could’, not ‘would’) have become league champions and participated in the Champions League group stages as a result. This would mean Hearts being richer and higher profile than they are now and even if Burley did leave as a result of his success, the appeal of the Hearts manager’s job would have increased tenfold because of their newly elevated status in the game.

As it is, we’ll probably end up with someone who sees the Hearts job as either the ultimate job in their career (a Jim Jefferies/Craig Levein type) or a club that offers them one last hurrah at a reasonable level (Malofeev). This may not be the worst thing that’s ever happened to the club, but it certainly wouldn’t be in line with the ambitions that Romanov initially demonstrated a couple of years ago. If you appoint someone like that, then you will only ever get to a certain level, but if you’re prepared to take more of a gamble and go for someone who’s destined for greater things in the long term, then you are at least giving yourself that chance. The latter is risky though, as there is no guarantee that someone like this would get the success and therefore a lot of money could be wasted, but what I’m saying here is that you really have to speculate a little if you want to aim for the very highest rewards. This means taking a risk……..the question is, how much of a risk is Romanov prepared to take?