|Report Index--> 2005-06--> All for 20050924|
|<-Page||<-Team||Sat 24 Sep 2005 Hearts 1 Rangers 0||Team->||Page->|
|<-Srce||<-Type||Sunday Herald ------ Report||Type->||Srce->|
|George Burley||<-auth||Stewart Fisher||auth->||Kenny Clark|
|31||of 049||Roman Bednar 14||L SPL||H|
7 days at the heart of Hearts
For one week only, the Sunday Herald was granted exclusive access to Hearts’ off-field operation as the hours ticked down to yesterday’s meeting with Rangers. While the team set the pace in the league race, Stewart Fisher took notes as the rest of the club burst a blood vessel to keep up ...
Tynecastle offices and superstore
Retail director Nick Peel warily examines the desk in front of him, and subjects the four furry Russian-style hats lying on the table to his critically trained eye. His blessing has already been given to some Syrian-produced t-shirts with the legend “Romanov Army” in a semi-cyrillic type face to be produced in time to be on sale at yesterday’s match, and now the former Rangers retail chief is sourcing some alternative Christmas merchandise. Certain unnamed members of the club’s staff are enlisted as models, and eventually one design is settled upon, which will be available in two to three weeks.
“As long as you are constantly changing it, coming up with new ideas, and you don’t rip the fans off, you carry them with you,” Peel told me. “It is a supply and demand thing. Demand for all things Hearts, Burley and Romanov are at an all-time high.”
Further illustration would present itself later in the week. A new range of jewellery (everything from rings to earrings to ornate belly button bars) is introduced on Friday, even if there was nothing during the week to rival the club’s biggest ever Superstore sales day against Motherwell on August 27. But with almost everything the club are producing outstripping previous demand by a factor of at least two or three, Peel spent his Wednesday in discussions with property agents, looking at a site for a Hearts shop in the city centre.
City of Manchester Stadium
An executive of telecommunications firm T-mobile, Toby Hester, is holding court, highlighting the opportunities presented by third generation technology and the interactive age. Inconspicuous within a conference room in the bowels of Manchester City’s new state of the art stadium, one particular member of the audience is in his first day of his new job. Alasdair Russell saw plenty of such presentations when head of marketing at the Scottish Rugby Union, but this is his first official appearance as Hearts’ new commercial manager. The post sees him renew acquaintances with his former boss Phil Anderton, and completes the off-the-field hierarchy under the new chief executive. The next day would be spent pressing the flesh with some friends of Hearts, people who have contributed plenty of cash to the club, and he hopes will continue to do so. “We have to make sure that we are open for business, 24/7, 365 days a year,” said Russell. Before yesterday, he had still to be introduced to his Lithuanian sugardaddy.
Corporal Kevin Doust strides purposefully across the halfway line, dressed in a black bomber jacket with yellow insignia. He is the leader of a team of four skydivers who made a landing at the Edinburgh stadium at half-time during yesterday’s match. He, and his team, have jumped into Murrayfield for a Scotland-Italy rugby match, and braved the winds coming off the North Sea for the recent Barbarians v Scotland rugby match at Pittodrie, and he is considering the roof of the ever-so-slightly ramshackle main stand with just a hint of suspicion. “Coming over the top of that opens up the stadium a little bit, but if that stand had been the same height as the other three then we possibly wouldn’t have done it,” Doust says. He isn’t a football fan, isn’t paid for the jump, and only hopes he will be looked after in hospitality for the second half of the game. Friday saw the team conduct a practice jump, and the first consideration given to the weather conditions was when a Met report was casually requested yesterday morning. Twelve months ago, Corporal Doust was in Iraq, so at least he has plenty of experience of entering a war zone.
It was serious business earlier in the week. The monthly board meeting for September rumbles on for some six hours, but only shortbread is on the menu. The eight-man board are considering four separate presentations for either a rebuilt main stand or a completely rebuilt stadium on the current site. The board are adamant about two things. The old ground’s formidable atmosphere must remain as imposing as it currently is, but also needs to include world class hospitality suites, and although land currently owned and occupied by a local nursery may yet come into the equation, there is even a comical moment when two of the separate presentations claim to have developed the same stadium. By Thursday, the formidable Sergejus Fedotovas is spotted trooping round the back of one of the stands, and mentions that Vladimir Romanov and some of his business partners from Lithuania would be jetting in for the weekend.
George Burley and chief scout Simon Hunt settle into their seats in the Rangers directors’ box, on a mission to check out yesterday’s opponents as they toil against Clyde. It is the second time Burley has seen them in the flesh, after the second leg against Anorthosis Famagusta.
Tynecastle communications office
Media and communications staff David Southern and Clare Cowan grimace at the congested white board in their office. They have received 35 requests for one-to-one interviews, and gentleman George Burley alone has agreed to grace the Independent and the Cumnock Chronicle, Football Focus and Soccer AM, even squeezing in a few soundbites after the music news on Radio 1 Newsbeat. Nova TV, of the Czech Republic, arrive on Friday to interview Rudi Skacel. Chief Executive Phil Anderton finds time on Wednesday to appear on Real Radio, to refute claims from Rangers that they reneged on ticket allocations for the meeting between the two teams in March. “My job is 90% promoting the club, and 10% defending it,” says Southern, who has had to organise around 12 overspill stand places due to media interest in the game. Meanwhile, Ross Easton – whose duties involving selling game sponsorship, hospitality, looking after celebrity fans or season members Ken Stott and Andrew Oldcorn – has also had to take a hand in ordering yesterday’s pre-game fireworks.
Hearts lose a competitive match for the first time this season, 1-0 to Livingston in the CIS Cup.
Tynecastle ticket office
Martine Colley has already forgotten all about the Rangers game. She is staring at a computer screen that says either full or sold out. Actually, although some sections still display the digits 3, 4 or 5, even those areas are actually full – they are seats which can’t actually be sold. Most likely Colley will be working all day today, her job currently little more than a procession of 10 or 12-hour shifts. Then there is sorting out tickets for players’ families. “I think most of the players are bringing families, most of them allowed to buy a few additional tickets for the mummies, and the grannies,” Colley says. The eventual plan is to expand the entire ticketing operation, just as it is to improve a telephone system which currently only has three points of contact. There is even a new start in the secretarial department, with one of the girls having chosen the wrong week to return to Australia. Lindsey Hunter in the Junior Jambos office has spent the week sending packs out to all her members this week. Numbers of kids from 0-to-16 years are up to 1130 from 600 last season, and mascots have been booked up to the Hibs game in January. Most grade A fixtures feature a mascot from each team, but there were two Hearts ones yesterday. Rangers didn’t want to send one.
Two further graduates of the Hearts Under-19 team, Jamie Mole and John Neill, graduated to Burley’s first team for the match against Livingston, joining Lee Wallace and Calum Elliott, but under-19 coach Stephen Frail is far away from West Lothian. He is at Celtic Park, helping compile a dossier on Falkirk, Hearts’ SPL opponents next Sunday, just as he had done for Rangers against Kilmarnock last Saturday. His under-19s had been scheduled to meet Rangers on Friday, but with youngsters Ross Hamilton, Kris Paterson and Mark McCusker all in Ross Mathie’s squad for Scotland under-17s’ match against Cyprus in Hungary, it was delayed due to a phonecall from Frail to Iain Durrant.
Tynecastle stand and control room
Stadium manager John Boag meets with the Lothian and Borders police and his counterpart from Rangers, then gets down to his real work. That is the more mundane business of installing tarpaulin posters of Hearts legends, constructing a TV Studio, and affixing 11,000 names onto plastic seats in the stands. “It is a bit of a nightmare getting the names on,” Boag says. “But it will look good if we get the majority of them on in time. A few people have swapped seats and as you can imagine with 11,000 names, you get a few spelling mistakes.”
Martyn Hall’s official job title is maintenance assistant, but that doesn’t do him justice. On Wednesday, he was revarnishing the benches at the dugouts, and he generally performs all the maintenance and safety checks. He also performed summer refits on the manager and referee’s offices.
“This week has been just like any other match, but just a wee bit busier,” he says. “I am a Hearts fan and I am very much excited to see the club up where they are at the moment. Like the rest of the staff I just hope it continues.” In the absence of a full-time groundsman, Burley pops back into the ground on Friday to advise upon the length at which he wants the Tynecastle grass.
The touchlines cannot be moved in any further, even if he wants them to be.
David Lloyd Fitness Centre, Glasgow Road, Edinburgh
It is the morning after the night before, and the manager has prescribed a recovery session. This entails three sets of 10 minutes running and using cardiovascular exercise machines before some swimming and massage, but it also means that the players have been in every day since Sunday. “To be honest with you, the funny thing about this week is that we had to focus on the CIS Cup game on Wednesday, a lot of focus on that, so we did not get a lot of chance to focus on Rangers,” Pressley said. “On Monday the manager spoke about certain things, but had to focus on game on Wednesday. Then Thursday came, and we did the recovery session, but no one was too down after the game. I think most of the fans would accept the position we are in at the moment.”
Burley is curling in wicked crossballs on a crossing and finishing drill. It is lively, energetic training, the manager greeting efforts either good or bad with shouts like “Rudi, Rudi” or “Edgar, Edgar”. “I join in, and do bits of ball work, I am one of those sad managers who likes to try to join in,” Burley tells me afterwards. Next he is gladhanding former captain Alan Anderson and posing in front of a giant £1 coin, in order to encourage people to support the Contalmaison Cairn monument to the Hearts team who enlisted together and were largely decimated in the Battle of the Somme. In addition to his efforts towards yesterday’s game, Burley also mentions his desire to improve the Heriott-Watt kitchens, and invest in some further upgrading to his training pitches. He ends the evening by picking up a supporters’ player of the year award for last season on Craig Gordon’s behalf (presumably he was tucked up in bed), and going to the airport to pick up one of his sons at around 9.30pm. It always helps if you have got a manager who is prepared to put his own Heart and soul into things.
25 September 2005
Taken from the Sunday Herald
|<-Page||<-Team||Sat 24 Sep 2005 Hearts 1 Rangers 0||Team->||Page->|