Hearts in turmoil as Romanov empire crumbles

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The Independent Football

To lose one manager is unfortunate, and two smacks of carelessness, but to see six come and go in the space of 18 months is, by any standard, extreme. Yet Vladimir Romanov, the Lithuanian owner of Hearts, is not a patron who gives two hoots about public opinion and he announced yesterday that his interim coach, Eduard Malofeev, is to be replaced by another stand-in, Eugenijus Riabovas.

The latest upheaval comes as question marks hang over the futures of several key players, including the club captain, Steven Pressley, and his fellow Scotland international Paul Hartley. That pair, along with the goalkeeper Craig Gordon, publicly denounced Romanov's reign last month after Romanov threatened he would sell the whole team unless results improved. Pressley was absent from Monday's 1-1 draw with Falkirk amid rumours he has been stripped of the captaincy, while Hartley was on the bench.

Hearts have not won for more than six weeks and have only one victory in all competitions in their last eight games. Since Romanov took a controlling interest last year, he has sacked or parted company with three full-time managers - John Robertson, George Burley and Graham Rix - while John McGlynn, who was Burley and Rix's assistant, had two spells as caretaker.

Officially, Hearts' full-time manager is still Rix's successor, Valdas Ivanauskas, who is on indefinite leave because of a stress-related illness. Malofeev has been in charge in his place for four games but, Hearts said yesterday, he is leaving to work on his Uefa pro-licence. Riabovas "will take temporary charge of the first team squad later this month" said a club statement. It was not clear last night who will be in charge for Sunday's visit by Rangers to Tynecastle.

Riabovas is officially also still the manager of Romanov's Lithuanian club, FBK Kaunas, who finished their domestic season at the weekend with a 4-0 win that sealed the title. Malofeev was the Kaunas manager before Riabovas, and Ivanauskas was in charge before that.

The Romanov carousel is not limited to the dugout. Hearts have nine players currently on loan from Kaunas. Pressley said last month there was "significant unrest" in the dressing-room.

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