Stunned Rix pleads to be given chance by fans

Instead of toiling in the non-league, the 48-year-old former Arsenal and England striker is now in charge of a team lying second in the Scottish Premier League and with every chance of qualifying for European football next season. Whether he will still be there remains to be seen as Rix has only been given a contract until the end of the season.

The reason for the controversy over Rix being selected by Hearts' majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov to take over from George Burley is threefold. First, he is far from the big name that supporters expected. Sir Bobby Robson, Claudio Ranieri and Ottmar Hitzfeld had all been touted as candidates and, while the appointment of a director of football is imminent at Hearts, the key job of coaching and picking the team has gone to Rix.

Second, although Rix did well as the assistant manager at Chelsea in the late 1990s, he has a less than wonderful track record in management. Stints at Portsmouth and more recently Oxford saw him lose more than half his matches overall while at the helm.

Third, and not least, fans' groups have criticised Romanov and his son, Roman, for appointing a man who once served six months of a 12-month sentence for unlawful sex with a 15-year-old girl.

At a press conference at Tynecastle yesterday, Rix was quick to address that issue. "I will say this only once," he said. "Seven years ago I made a mistake and once I realised I'd made a mistake I held my hands up and I was punished. Does that mean I have to be punished for the rest of my life? I don't really think so."

Rix said he was "not shocked, maybe a little bit disappointed", by the fans' reactions. "But they don't know me. Obviously I am going to work hard at building up a relationship with the fans."

Roman Romanov said: "We understand [the fans'] feelings. In Russia, we have a saying that a man beaten by life is worth two men who are unbeaten. If a person who has made a mistake can go through that, he is capable of becoming a better man."

Romanov hopes a football director, who will take care of transfer dealings, will be in place in the coming weeks. Rix's first assignment is an away game at Aberdeen a week on Sunday.