Valdas Ivanauskas yesterday became the latest Heart of Midlothian manager to succumb to the pressures of working at Tynecastle when it was announced he will be taking a fortnight off "due to a health issue". His ailment was not specified, although from his own description it seems he could be suffering from stress.
Working under the eccentric millionaire owner, Vladimir Romanov, has proved detrimental to the Hearts careers of numerous senior personnel, with two managers (George Burley and Graham Rix), a chief executive (Phil Anderton) and a chairman (Lord Foulkes) all sacked or forced out in the past year.
Romanov, who met with his coach in Lithuania yesterday, has long interfered in the day-to-day running of the team, something he admitted to openly for the first time last month. Burley and Rix made it clear they would not tolerate such meddling but Ivanauskas, who had worked for Romanov before at Kaunas, was thought to be more open to the idea. But some patchy form, culminating in a home defeat to Kilmarnock on Saturday, has apparently taken its toll, although Ivanauskas insists his problem is not related to that one result.
"I had been having some health problems earlier but now it is at the point where I cannot ignore them," Ivanauskas said. "I want to be, and must be, at the top of my physical and mental state." He added that he would be taking "two weeks' leave," with Romanov's blessing. "I will return to my position as head coach," he said.
Eduard Malofeev, Hearts' technical director, will assume the role of head coach in the interim. There was speculation at Tynecastle last night that Ivanauskas had wanted to resign, but Romanov, aware of his trigger-happy image, persuaded him to take a holiday instead. If Malofeev wins the next two games, against Dunfermline and Celtic, it might yet be permanent.
Derek Watson, secretary of the Hearts Supporters' Trust, said, "The outcome is probably acceptable to most fans."