Cool head for Rix in Hearts cauldron

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The Independent Football

Graham Rix has had to wait for two long weeks to prove he is worthy of the trust that Heart of Midlothian have placed in him but patience is something he is well-versed in after six months in a prison cell.

The former England international's conviction for unlawful sex with an underage girl in 1999 is haunting him in Scotland.

The new Hearts manager will make his first public appearance today at Pittodrie. Aberdeen are so concerned about reaction from supporters that they have given Rix a personal bodyguard.

It is doubtful whether Vladimir Romanov, the Hearts owner, anticipated the bad publicity that accompanied his decision to give Rix the chance to finish the job started by George Burley, before his unexplained exit, to deliver the first Scottish Premier League title to Tynecastle in 45 years.

Two weekends ago, Rix was anonymous as he arrived at Edinburgh airport. He was supposed to be scouting for Wolves after losing his job at Oxford United.

His spell at Chelsea, where he was assistant to Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli before his jail sentence, was too long ago to trigger a reaction from the photographers. They were looking for Sir Bobby Robson and Ottmar Hitzfeld, whom Romanov had touted as the new manager.

"I knew I'd got the job. I'd watched the team play and I loved what I saw and I was absolutely on cloud nine," Rix said. "Then, on the Sunday morning, my first day in Edinburgh, I saw the headline - I didn't even bother going to read it - and that just shocked me, knocked me for six." The headline read, "Sex offender in line for Hearts job".

"I knew there were going to be some tough days after that. I'd worked at Chelsea, at Oxford, at Portsmouth, and never had a reaction like that before."

The football community has been more tolerant. "You wouldn't believe the people in football who have been phoning me," he said. "Some people I haven't spoken to for 30 years."

His former Arsenal team-mate Liam Brady, who managed Celtic from 1991-93, offered support, and David Dein, the vice-chairman at Highbury, sent a text that read: "Hope to play you in the Champions' League next year."

Before that can become reality, Hearts must continue to produce the form which secured 11 wins in 14 games under Burley and then caretaker John McGlynn, and Rix must face the fans.

"It doesn't really affect me," Rix said. "I appreciate Aberdeen are trying to do everything they can, but every weekend somebody has abuse shouted at them and this weekend it's my turn.

"I just hope that if we are winning then it might stop them shouting a little bit. If people keep bringing my past up then they won't talk about football."

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