Hearts chief sacked for failing to buy into Romanov's fantasy land

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The Independent Football

Romanov's purge left fans bewildered. Romanov installed his son, Roman, as the club's chairman and stand-in chief executive. Romanov Jnr will assume Anderton's central role in finding a new manager for the club to succeed George Burley, who parted company with Hearts 10 days ago. That search is apparently now in disarray.

Anderton had personally interviewed candidates including Sir Bobby Robson and Claudio Ranieri, and had been selling a vision as a club with a great future. Such promises can only be diminished by Anderton's own axing.

Hearts' official line on yesterday's astonishing developments was that Anderton had left for reasons unspecified. In a statement issued to the Stock Exchange last night, the club simply said that he had "ceased to be" the chief executive, and that Foulkes had resigned.

Hearts' official reason for Burley leaving was "irreconcilable differences" between Romanov and Burley. In fact, Burley's contract was terminated when he refused to accept quietly Romanov's interference in transfers and team affairs. Burley signed a confidentiality agreement so the truth will not be made public. It was not clear whether Anderton signed a confidentiality agreement.

Romanov threw only a little more light on yesterday's exits by saying that Anderton and Foulkes "have had more than a year [working for me at Hearts] and not been able to do the things I've wanted to do for Hearts. They've had the funds and all my energy but I've not had the response I've wanted."

Those words were filtered through an interpreter but well-placed sources say they need extra translation. While Anderton, like Burley before him, has consistently said that a top-three finish in the Scottish Premier League this season would be a great achievement, Romanov wants more, and quickly.

Last week he said he expects Hearts to win the SPL this season and then triumph in the Champions' League soon after. Anderton's reluctance to buy into such an unlikely dream ­ or spout it himself in public ­ has cost him.

On the same day Burley left, Romanov had raised his stake in the club from 29 per cent to 55.5 per cent, giving him carte blanche to run the club as his personal fiefdom. He has made a bid for the rest of the shares, valuing the club at £4.4m. Hearts have debts of £19.2m, assumed by Romanov (and held at Romanov's bank, Ukio). But Romanov's buyout would mean that he owns Tynecastle, which is worth more than £20m to property developers. Hearts fell to second place in the SPL after they lost and Celtic won at the weekend.