PAULO Sergio is approaching the end of his first season as Hearts manager and it is one in which he has proved himself to be a stoic as well as engaging character.
In view of his unfamiliarity with the Scottish scene, the top-six place which could be achieved with a home victory against Aberdeen tomorrow seems a creditable achievement, particularly when off-the-field dramas are taken into account. And there is the possibility of a Scottish Cup final appearance.
Sergio dismissed the suggestion that he could be in the running for manager of the year yesterday, saying: “No. I am just a guy who has the great pleasure to be part of a fantastic group at a fantastic club.”
Who knows whether the Portuguese will be permitted to remain in charge at Tynecastle next season but he must look to the future in any case.
He gave 19-year-old midfielder Jason Holt his first start against St Johnstone last weekend and the player emerged with credit, scoring his side’s goal in a 2-1 defeat. It is likely that others will be introduced to the side before the season is out, although Sergio may wait until a top-six place is secure before experimenting too wildly.
“We can win a lot and we can lose a lot until the end of the season,” he acknowledged
However, Sergio knows he has to pay heed to the changing times at Tynecastle as money issues remain a concern. As well as being relieved that Hearts have finally settled another overdue wage bill, he is also alert to the challenges facing the club’s hierarchy.
“The Hearts directors are serious people and they are fighting for us because life is not easy at the moment all over in the world,” he said yesterday. “It’s a pity we can’t get paid at the right moment because they are finding the money ten days late.
“That doesn’t help but we have to believe people are working hard to create a normal situation. And I believe that will happen in the future and next season. I believe Hearts will go on for another 100, 200, 400 years because people are serious and are working hard to put things in place.”
There is promise in the youth ranks and, as with Holt, others will be given a chance to shine before the season is out.
“There are a few of the others who, after a hard season like this, have been working hard every week and deserve to have their chance too,” said Sergio. “Denis Prychynenko, Jordan Morton and there are other ones – I believe they have the qualities. I would like to give them a chance before the end of the season.
“In football nobody gives anything away for nothing, I am giving chances because the players deserve it.
“It’s up to them, if they are strong enough and good enough to be part of that future.
“When you give a chance to them it is because you believe in them – after that, they are the ones who have to prove it.”
A player Sergio says he would have few qualms bringing into the first team is under-19 goalkeeper Jack Hamilton. His services could be required if Jamie MacDonald, who returned to training yesterday, feels any reaction to the hip injury he sustained last weekend.
By confirming Hamilton is in line to step up as cover for Mark Ridgers, the manager drew a line under the question of whether Slovakian Marian Kello might feature again for the club. It now seems clear that he will not.