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John Robertson <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Iain Brines
16 of 019 ----- L SPL H

Give legend Robbo respect he deserves


SANDY CLARK knows better than anyone the feelings of disconcert John Robertson will be experiencing right now, so maybe the Hearts board should listen to his demand for them to end the humiliation of his close friend.

Clark was the victim last time a new regime took control in Gorgie, losing his job as manager within days of Chris Robinson and Leslie Deans’ takeover in 1994. Like Robertson this term, he had also been given just under a season to implement his plans.

With a date still to be set for Robertson’s well-documented contractual review, and an apparent split beginning to develop between Scottish board members and Lithuanian ones at Tynecastle over whether Robertson should stay or go, Clark has looked on in discomfort at the tribulations being suffered by the man he partnered in the maroon attack of the 1980s.

It seems chairman George Foulkes and chief executive Phil Anderton are keen to retain the luminary former striker to lead the club next season, however Vladimir Romanov and his compatriots remain unconvinced.

Robertson became the 22nd manager of Hearts upon assuming the reigns from Craig Levein last November, and Clark doubts whether any of his predecessors have been treated as shamelessly as the former goalscoring legend.

The two speak regularly, and Robertson has conveyed his personal doubt over his long-term Tynecastle future, taking Clark back to the day he was booted out by Robinson.

"I know exactly how he’s feeling," admitted the former striker, who is now managing Berwick Rangers. "It probably wasn’t quite as clear cut when I was sacked but I think it’s just so unfair on John. He’s only been in the job a short time, Craig Levein is obviously a hard act to follow and the club is very much in a transitional period.

"[Vladimir] Romanov keeps saying there is lots of money there but he hasn’t produced it so far. The problems trying to secure Lee Miller on a permanent deal probably sum that up. It’s a really difficult situation for any manager to work in.

"John has said it himself, it’s time to sack him or back him. Let him get on with the job or at least the Lithuanians should give him a little insight into their thinking. Basically there seems to be a severe lack of communication between the two parties."

There has been much focus on the clause in Robertson’s contract which permits a review by club owner Romanov, chairman George Foulkes and chief executive Phil Anderton upon’s the season’s conclusion. It has also been reported that the club’s hierarchy are already courting replacements, with Dick Advocaat and Gary Johnson named in connection with Robertson’s job.

Reading such speculation will ensure Robertson shifts evermore uncomfortably in his manager’s chair. Clark, though, is not convinced that the terms of his mate’s contract are what will underpin his ultimate fate.

"For me the contract is actually irrelevant for now. The decision has to be: Do the current board want John to stay, or do they want a new manager? If the choice is to get a new manager then do it now, if they opt for him to stay then they must give him their full backing and let him get on with the job. There will be speculation all over the place in the papers, and because there is a bit of doubt over John’s position the reporters are paid to be speculative over who might come in.

"What they forget at times is they are dealing with people’s feelings and it’s not very pleasant. That is the main reason why the people in charge at Hearts have to sit down, make a decision and be honest with people."

Clark, of course, had no such room for manoeuvre when Robinson and Deans took control, and was almost instantly dispensed with in favour of Tommy McLean.

Unfair or not in view of the relatively short timescale he was given to rejuvenate the club, he is commendably not one for looking back in anger. Robertson, though, may wish he had done things a little differently. "Nobody forced John to go to Hearts, it’s worth pointing that out," said Clark. "He did a very good job at Caley Thistle and the fact they did so well last season is testimony to how well John did up there. But he signed the contract under the terms that were offered. Maybe in hindsight he should have looked for a more secure contract.

"However, it’s still a short period of time to judge him. He’s got to try and build his own team and he can’t do that because there are too many restraints on who he can and can’t sign. He’s targeted a lot of players as every manager does at this time of year, but he seems to have his hands tied."

Clark’s achievements alongside Robertson are well remembered amongst the Tynecastle support, many of whom often approach their former player and manager conveying a message of disbelief at the cloud of ambiguity hanging over their club, and Robertson in particular. "The fans are desperate to know what is going on. I think the majority would be more than happy to see John stay at the club so that he can sign his own players, mould a side for next year and see how far he can take the team.

"John is a legend at Hearts from his playing days, which I know as well as anyone having played with him for so long. No-one should forget how good he was. We don’t know every detail of John’s contract. When you sign a contract with a club you have to stick to the terms, but how secure it is for John I really don’t know."

Whether Robertson finds himself in a training kit emblazoned with the Hearts crest come the first day of pre-season training is yet to be ascertained.

Should the board decide on another leader, there will undoubtedly be other opportunities for a coach with credentials to match any of similar experience. The situation across the Forth at East End Park may well be one Robertson is keeping an eye on.

Regardless of what happens, Clark believes the club cannot simply continue without laying down some sort of rudder for next season. "I’m saying this not only for John’s sake but for the supporters and even for anyone else who might come in, because this is a time of year where people are looking all over the place to try and get players in. Hearts as a club could be left behind because of the uncertainty and it will affect them next season."

Unfortunately for Robertson, he is the one suffering most right now.

Taken from the Scotsman

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