London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2005-06--> All for 20051029
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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John McGlynn (Caretaker) <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> John Underhill
Jankauskas Edgaras [G Buezelin 78] ;[G O'Connor 80]
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Derby drama is unbeatable


I DROVE past the sidelined Hearts striker Roman Bednar on my way to Easter Road on Saturday as he hailed a taxi to take him to the derby, dressed in jeans and a bomber jacket.

Perhaps his celebrations on Friday of Czech Independence Day continued a little longer than was expected, but regardless of that it was not a day where casual attitudes would be acceptable on the pitch.

After arriving at the ground I took my seat in the media area and noted the intense atmosphere, fans screaming their vocal chords red raw, flying tackles and confrontations aplenty. The warm-up was quite an event.

Of the real thing, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash had John Anderson from Gladiators emerged at the mouth of the tunnel before kick-off with his microphone. "Contenders ready! Gladiators ready!" [you decide which team deserves which role]. To my right, Bednar had taken his seat and produced his mobile phone to photograph the teams as they ran out to a tumultuous welcome. In the south stand the "Vla-di-mir Romanov" opera tune had returned to the singing repertoire of Hearts fans who seemed to temporarily lose their voices last week.

To the same tune they also cried "we are unbeatable", and early on they seemed to be so in taking command of the match. It required three vital interventions by Hibs captain Gary Caldwell inside the first ten minutes to repel the visitors, but after that Hearts' challenge seemed to wither. Early on in the proceedings, I noticed Paul Hartley alone in the centre of the visiting midfield. With Samuel Camazzola on the right, Rudi Skacel on the left and Julien Brellier sitting deep to protect the back four, Hartley found himself confronted by three Hibs midfielders every time he moved a muscle.

Tony Mowbray had spent a portion of Monday night's agm defining to shareholders the difference between a 4-5-1 formation and the 4-3-2-1 he adopts. The derby provided conclusive evidence of Mowbray's point as Hibs' central midfielders, Guillaume Beuzelin, Kevin Thomson and Michael Stewart, crowded Hartley out and negated his undoubted threat.

Has George Burley's effect gone? Possibly. I'll certainly argue that he would have altered Hearts' tactics to afford Hartley the necessary assistance in the middle. That is not to criticise John McGlynn, a decent and loyal man doing a commendable job, but being able to see such situations developing is what separates the excellent managers from the good.

With Hibs sensing their gradual progress into the ascendancy, the frustration of Edgaras Jankauskas showed seconds before half-time with the foul that led to his first booking. "Champions League? You're havin' a laugh," announced supporters in the east stand in mockery of their rivals' title tilt.

However they were instantly silenced by the away fans' retort. "UEFA Cup, you're havin' a laugh."

Romanov must have sniggered as he looked on from the directors box flanked by his son, and both remained there in discussion throughout the interval. "Who can we bring in then?" Romanov senior might have queried, in Russian of course. "Alex McLeish might be available soon," could have been Roman's reply.

The second half was just over 15 minutes old before the dismissal of Jankauskas for a shove on Scott Brown, the misdemeanour being his second bookable offence. Many have pointed to this as the game's true turning point, but even then Hibs failed to gamble and press Hearts back.

No, the critical point of the whole day was Mowbray's introduction of Ivan Sproule for Michael Stewart on 66 minutes. Only then were Hibs injected with the impetus required to open Hearts up, and sure enough 11 minutes later Sproule sprinted in behind Takis Fyssas to take a Gary Caldwell pass and cut the ball back for Beuzelin to slot the opener.

Two minutes later, Garry O'Connor secured the points, and as "you're not unbeatable" instantly emanated from the Hibs fans, the words of George Foulkes late last week concerning the supposedly two-pronged nature of the title race were rammed emphatically back down his gullet.

Now I have no particular affection for one Edinburgh club over the other, and as much as I was engrossed in the derby, the biggest story of the SPL weekend occurred elsewhere. Another draw for Rangers. Alex McLeish must be praying for the onset of bird flu to get football stopped before his team does.

Maybe there will be a place for Burley at Ibrox soon, and it would be interesting to see Romanov's reaction to that possible scenario. I happen to believe that the truth in this secret affair will lie somewhere in the middle, depicting both Romanov and Burley as being somewhat at fault.

It has been claimed a screaming match took place between the two. More like purses at dawn. Those who can recall David McCreery's days in maroon would concur that he would have sorted both Romanov and Burley out with the minimum of fuss whilst at the same time chewing into shreds the aforementioned confidentiality agreement.

But let us be serious for a minute. Burley was solely the manager at Tynecastle and allegedly he wasn't being allowed to solely manage. His irritation at that situation was palpable, however with a little more tact and compromise his relationship with Romanov might just have survived the season and taken Hearts to the title.

Romanov comes from a footballing culture in eastern Europe where interference in team selection by the club president is virtually the norm, as is replacing the coach every five months. But football in the UK has never subscribed to this practice and as a foreigner to the British game Romanov must respect that.

As the majority shareholder of Hearts, the club is his at the moment. But he is a custodian of an institution that existed long before his arrival in Edinburgh and will continue long after his departure. He has a duty to co-operate with his employees, especially the manager.

Romanov may recruit the respected Italian Claudio Ranieri in Burley's place, but regardless of his undoubted coaching abilities it must be remembered that the Hearts team has had enough people tinkering with it of late.

Sir Bobby Robson is also heavily quoted at the experienced age of 94. I don't think he's that old to be honest.

The next week promises to be a critical one for Hearts, even more so after the weekend's events. I for one won't be taking my eye off the Tynecastle front door.

Taken from the Scotsman

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