Robson still keen on Hearts as Hitzfeld says no

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The 72-year-old had been strongly linked with the Tynecastle job following the shock departure of George Burley two weeks ago. However, after the chief executive Phil Anderton and the chairman George Foulkes were dismissed, the veteran coach appeared to be hesitant over a move to Edinburgh.

But Robson insists he has not ruled himself out of the job yet. The former England manager said: "It is still an open book. It is a question of how far Hearts want to pursue the matter. I have still got my enthusiasm and my knowledge. I'm in very good condition. I want to work - I like working - and I have missed the job in the last year since I left Newcastle. So I am just waiting to see what develops. I am not in a hurry to take the wrong job."

Ottmar Hitzfeld, however, confirmed yesterday that he has turned down the chance to become the new manager of Hearts, who can regain an outright lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League, for a day at least, with a win at home against Dundee United this afternoon. "I have had an offer from Heart of Midlothian but I told them I was not interested in the job," said Hitzfeld, 56.

The urgent need for a manager who will bring stability has been stressed in recent days by players including the captain, Steven Pressley, his Scottish international team-mate, the goalkeeper Craig Gordon, and the midfielder, Rudi Skacel -Hearts' leading goalscorer. He said: "This doesn't help our morale."

The number of out-of-work managers being linked to Tynecastle increases by the day. John Gregory has been asked for his CV but has heard no more, while Arie Haan, the former Ajax and Netherlands player whose last job was manager of China, is seeking an interview in the next few days.

Hearts were knocked off the top of the table last weekend when they lost at Hibernian and Celtic then won at Dundee United. United's visit to Tynecastle should reveal the Hearts players' state of mind. Hearts have won all six home league games so far, scoring 12 goals and conceding only one.

Hearts will be without the suspended striker Edgaras Jankauskas, but their playmaker, Paul Hartley, is expected to start after being passed fit following a hamstring problem.

Celtic, who top the table on goal difference, play tomorrow at in-form Falkirk, who endured a poor start in the SPL but have won two, drawn three and lost only one of their last six.

Celtic's Stilian Petrov has reiterated his desire to stay at the club but has no immediate plans to extend his contract. The defending champions, Rangers, have also won two, drawn three and lost one of their last six domestically, but with Old Firm expectations so much higher, anything less than a victory at Ibrox against Aberdeen today could seal Alex McLeish's exit. Rangers start the day in fourth place, 10 points behind the top pair and six adrift of third-placed Hibs.

Even a Rangers victory will leave McLeish at the mercy of his friend - and Celtic manager - Gordon Strachan. Rangers face an imminent double-header at Parkhead, playing Celtic away in the CIS Cup next Wednesday, and away again in the SPL in a fortnight.

McLeish yesterday deflected some of the attention from himself by making the surprise public announcement that he is dropping his goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus for today's match and will start with Stefan Klos, who has not played since January.

Among several recent slip-ups, Waterreus was partly culpable for Rangers conceding one of two goals in the 2-2 draw at Artmedia Bratislava in the Champions' League in midweek.

Hibs can maintain the pressure on the leaders - and bolster neutral hopes of a genuine four-horse race for the title - when they visit bottom-placed Livingston today. Tony Mowbray's side are seeking a sixth consecutive SPL win on the road. Victory would take them within a point of Celtic, temporarily at least.

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