Fans losing heart with 'freak show'
Sunday 24 December 2006
Football has always been the perfect way for Edinburgh to recover from staging the world's biggest New Year's Eve party. Not this time. The hangover is already there, and Tynecastle on Tuesday might just be the final get-together of those who refuse to toe the party line.
Heart of Midlothian face Hibernian on Boxing Day, rather than the traditional New Year's Day, torn apart by internal conflict on and off the pitch. Of the three players who rebelled against owner Vladimir Romanov's running of the club, Steven Pressley has gone, Paul Hartley seems poised to be jettisoned in January and it can only be a matter of time until Hearts cash in on goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
The ruthless treatment of Pressley has turned most Tynecastle fans against Romanov. The Lithuanian millionaire virtually sacked his captain - just as the defender was about to be granted a testimonial after nine seasons at Hearts - and now supporters fear that Romanov will take revenge on Hartley and Gordon for hijacking a press conference seven weeks ago and making public the "dressing-room unrest" over Romanov's methods.
Hartley, on the bench last week as punishment, and Gordon, who was left out yesterday, would command significant fees if they were sold in the transfer window, and right now Romanov appears to be in need of that. About to open a branch of his own Lithuanian bank in Edinburgh, he has been embarrassed by stories this week, with Hearts facing unpaid bills for policing Tynecastle while Fifa got tough to force the club to settle a £850,000 fee that was owed to Racing Genk of Belgium after the signing of the midfielder Mirsad Beslija last January.
Romanov, who was out dancing on the Tynecastle pitch when his team secured Champions' League football last May, has barely been sighted there recently as his team plunged out of the title fight. The Hearts Supporters' Trust wrote a letter to their absentee owner in midweek, declaring: "You have turned us into a circus freak show - as a result, we have lost our respect for you."
That was underlined yesterday with almost 1,000 empty seats in the away section at Tannadice for the game with Dundee United. Hearts, like the Old Firm, have filled virtually every ground they have gone to in the past year, but now there is resentment.
Gordon, who has assumed Pressley's captaincy but endured a disciplinary hearing in midweek, insists that he will not hand in a transfer request. "At this club, at the moment, you deal with every single day as it comes," said the Scotland goalkeeper. "Anything beyond that, you are likely to be wrong."
Latest in Sport
Royal Rumble 2015: Roman Reigns triumphs after The Rock returns to set-up Wrestlemania showdown with Brock Lesnar
Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Glen Johnson to stay; Fabian Delph move goes up in flames; Marc-Andre Ter Stegen for loan deal
Brighton 2 Arsenal 3 player ratings: Did Tomas Rosicky's performance and goal make him man of the match at Amex Stadium?
Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Royal Rumble 2015: Watch The Rock return to the WWE to rescue Roman Reigns
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 SAG Awards: Fake applause track interrupts Reese Witherspoon
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks