Robertson rebuilds his Romanov ruins

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The Independent Online

John Robertson scored more than 300 goals for Heart of Midlothian but today he has a personal score to settle - and the fans who idolised him could be the ones to suffer. Livingston's new manager will appreciate the irony that sees his first game at Almondvale Stadium bringing him face to face with Vladimir Romanov, the man who ruthlessly jettisoned him 11 months ago.

Robertson's exit from Tyne-castle was so swift he never got a chance to say goodbye to the supporters, many of whom will make the short trip along the M8 in their pursuit of Champions' League football. For Livingston, at the other end of the Scottish Premier League, it is all about the struggle for survival.

The fact that Graham Rix is the third Hearts manager in three visits to Almondvale to take his seat in the away dug-out tells you everything you need to know about the volatility of the Edinburgh club under Romanov. George Burley oversaw a 4-1 win in September before being sacked when he had taken Hearts to the top of the table. The Lithuanian millionaire has funded the remarkable change but his need to be in total control has become counter-productive.

That was the backdrop that Robertson worked under in his brief spell as Hearts manager. It was less public but Robertson's resistance to Romanov's insistence on various Lithuanian players being in the side saw him pay a heavy price. He was sacked in April 2005, just six months after being recruited from Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

"It doesn't matter what industry or what position you are in, if you are out of work then you love to get back into it," reflects Robertson, who took over after Paul Lambert resigned. "The team know what's required over the last 11 matches to get out of it. I have absolutely no doubts whatsoever that we can stay in the Premier League."

To gauge Robertson's feeling about the way he was treated by Romanov, you have to go back 17 days to his appointment as Livingston manager. "I read the contract and I'm pretty sure there is no Lithuanian in it so hopefully things will work out a wee bit better," he joked. "If it means keeping Livingston in the Premier League, I'll even let the chairman pick the team!"

Robertson has been reluctant to talk about his time at Hearts since leaving but it led him to question his own abilities as a manager. "The way things turned out took a lot out of me and dented my confidence. But I've no regrets and I hope they continue to challenge for the title. Hearts are much bigger than John Robertson and the main thing is that they are successful. What happened has helped give me experience and I now have my eyes wide open all the time."

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