VLADIMIR Romanov and his Lithuanian acolytes may have left the premises, but former Hearts captain Dave McPherson believes it will be some time yet before Tynecastle is cleansed of their ruinous legacy.
“It might take a few years to get rid of the paranoia, that’s for sure,” says McPherson. “It’s seeping through the walls here.”
Speaking in the stadium’s Gorgie Suite as he endorsed the Foundation of Hearts’ efforts to secure preferred bidder status from the stricken club’s administrators BDO, McPherson was not simply relying on the benefit of 20-20 hindsight as he gave a scathing assessment of the Romanov years.
Having developed a fondness for the close-knit community culture at the club he encountered during two spells as a player, McPherson had deep reservations about the Russian-born businessman from the early days of his confrontational tenure.
In his current role as an agent, he found his dealings with the Romanov regime bewildering and deeply concerning, leading him to fear that the club would one day pay a heavy price for their reckless financial mismanagement. “The whole Romanov era has been a disaster,” said McPherson. “Apart from winning two Scottish Cups, it was a disaster. As an emotive reaction, some punters will say it was worth it to beat Hibs 5-1 in a cup final. But people have lost their jobs and the community and the club were ripped apart. I don’t think it has been worth that.
“When Romanov first took over, I was always sceptical. I never thought it was brilliant. He promised money and with supporters being supporters, they believed he was going to spend it. He did spend money but he wasted a lot. When you see owners wasting money the way he was, it was always going to get to this point. There was a lack of trust within the boardroom and the club in general. In my first spell here in 1987, it was such a family-orientated club. We really need to get back to that.
“As an agent, I never really dealt with Romanov on a one-to-one basis. I tried not to, because I don’t think you could trust him. You never got any straight answers, it took forever to get answers and ultimately it was to the detriment of the club. I remember dealing with Anatoly Korobochka, who couldn’t speak English, when he was manager and director of football. So right away you have a barrier, but he understood football. You could trust him and he was a good guy. But the rest of them, I don’t think they had any idea or concept of what players should be paid.
“Someone like Andy Driver is going to lose out on money now because of administration, but you have to look at the fact that he was probably overpaid at the time. These contracts that were being handed out were ridiculous. Romanov always thought he was going to get the money back by selling the player on, which was not the model to go down.”
McPherson believes the Foundation of Hearts represent the best option for the club to recover both financial stability and a sense of self-esteem.
“What the Foundation are trying to do is good for Hearts and good for the game in general,” he added. “They are not in it to make money, but they are looking to have a sound financial base behind them. You can’t just do it with the fans alone, you need a proper board of business-minded people too. If you get the right people involved, you can develop the club and take it forward. We need to get back to Hearts being a family club. There are a lot of people here and behind the scenes who can help develop that again.”
Garry Halliday, a founder member of Foundation of Hearts, believes the loyalty shown by his fellow supporters has had a compelling impact on administrator Trevor Birch ahead of next Friday’s deadline for bids for the club. “He understands how much work the fans have put in and the commitment we’ve shown and we pretty much deserve the chance to own the football club,” said bricklayer Halliday, who built the current dugouts at Tynecastle free of charge a few years ago and buried a time capsule with photos of family members in the foundations.
“I think Trevor is maybe buying into the fact that this is a great way forward for this club and a fantastic opportunity at this present time. We’re getting positive vibes and Trevor is a nice guy and hopefully this will come off. Imagine in five years’ time, you’re a Hearts fan and the team have just beaten Hibs at Tynecastle and you go into the pub for a pint after it with your FoH membership card.
“You’ve just seen a team full of players who know exactly what it’s like to play for the club having come through the youth academy. If you were standing in that pub with your chest pumped out you wouldn’t swap that for anything. Every player will know they’re playing for the fans and not some rich owner and success will be sweeter.
“If the young players came through and achieved something then it would mean much more than success with highly paid foreigners.”
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