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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Stuart Bathgate auth-> Brian Winter
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19 of 019 Andrew Driver 50 ;Ruben Palazuelos 92 L SPL H

Laszlo antics get under the skin of nearest rivals


JUST as Csaba Laszlo's team are proving increasingly adept at getting the better of their closest rivals, so the man himself is succeeding in getting under the skin of his own direct competitors.
On Wednesday night Motherwell manager Mark McGhee became the latest to complain about the Hearts manager's antics. As the race hots up for the two European places behind the Old Firm, he is unlikely to be the last. Laszlo's capacity to irritate was evident during his first brush with Scottish football, in late 2004, when his Ferencvaros team beat Hearts 1-0 at Murrayfield in a Uefa Cup group match. At full-time John Robertson, then in charge of Hearts, appeared to kick Laszlo lightly on the legs, though Robertson himself said he was only trying to free himself after the Hungarian stood on his foot.

The Hearts coach's intemperate behaviour left Laszlo stunned, and Robertson was widely blamed for allowing the defeat to get to him. Since Laszlo's arrival at Tynecastle last summer, several other managers have followed the same route, albeit less demonstratively, while he himself has also engaged in the odd bout of histrionics.

The complaints have tended to follow Hearts victories. Earlier this week, for instance, Craig Levein of Dundee United accused Laszlo's team of time-wasting and feigning injury during their 1-0 win at Tannadice. And on Wednesday night, McGhee's displeasure at being told to "f*** off" by Laszlo was voiced after his team went down to a 2-1 defeat at Tynecastle.

McGhee is one of the more intelligent and personable men in the Scottish game, and might usually be regarded as too thick-skinned to worry about the odd expletive directed at him by an opponent. In this case, though, his anger was caused by what he saw as the Hearts bench's histrionic appeals.

Laszlo certainly cuts an animated figure on the sidelines, jumping about and gesticulating from first to last. But he is hardly the only man in football to behave in such a manner, so it is hard to see why McGhee became annoyed enough to bring the matter up at his post-match press conference.

Sour grapes certainly came into it, and were evident along with a touch of self-pity in his analysis of the match. "We lost two goals from long throw-ins," he said. "That's one way to win a game."

McGhee's dalliance with the Hearts job last summer may also have coloured his feelings towards the Edinburgh club. Having come so close to taking the job which Laszlo now has, he may at least feel ambivalent about visiting Tynecastle.

Just as McGhee and Levein spoke out after losing to Hearts, so too did Jimmy Calderwood. Following his team's 2-1 loss, however, the Aberdeen manager offered a more explicit explanation for the reasons behind his criticisms, which were in fact largely directed at Laszlo's assistant manager, Werner Burger. "We all like to challenge decisions, but when you challenge 100 out of 100 it starts to get on your nerves," Calderwood said.

"I might challenge 50 out of 100 or five out of ten. I mean, it was every single one. I started to get a sore left ear."

Perhaps that sums up the difference between the present Hearts management team and most of their counterparts in the SPL.

Ably abetted by Burger, Laszlo goes further than the rest – and possibly not only when it comes to challenging decisions.

Maybe he is also more thorough when it comes to other, more important aspects of the game than appealing for throw-ins and free-kicks. Maybe Laszlo, for all his superficial eccentricities, is able at heart to remain calmer, and to think more clearly, than his Scottish rivals.

"From the beginning of the season to now we are always in the top six," the coach himself said on Tuesday. "Maybe this is no accident."

Taken from the Scotsman

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