INJURY MAY have limited Deividas Cesnauskis's role at Tynecastle in recent times to that of bit-part, but the Lithuanian winger may inadvertently have a large say in the identity of Heart of Midlothian's long-awaited next manager. As Vladimir Weiss continues his latest round of talks with Vladimir Romanov this weekend, Cesnauskis's brother and fellow Lithuania internationalist, Edgaras, has provided advice to the Slovakian coach.
Weiss and Edgaras Cesnauskis worked together during season 2006/7 at the Moscow club Saturn, and the midfielder retains a strong affection for his former manager.
"When Weiss got the proposal to go to Hearts, he called me," explained Cesnauskis. "He knew that Romanov was from Lithuania, he checked the roster and new my brother was on the team. So Weiss called asking me about Hearts, what kind of team it is and what I thought he should do. I told him, of course he should go to Hearts."
Cesnauskis, three years younger than Deividas, spoke partly in jest when revealing he ordered Weiss to bring him to Edinburgh, should Hearts ultimately appoint the manager who is currently amid a second spell in charge of Artmedia Bratislava. Yet the possibility may have substance; Cesnauskis is actively seeking a move from Saturn after a disagreement with Weiss' replacement, Gadzi Gadzijev.
"He told me he would take me if Romanov was okay with that," said Cesnauskis, who clearly respects Weiss both professionally and personally.
"It would be a big step for him in his career to go to Hearts. The Scottish league is a much higher level competition than the Slovakian league. Weiss is a good coach but more than that, he is a great person. Sometimes he is too good. For instance, in practices he would never yell at his players. He is not a dictator."
The Weiss style therefore appears markedly different to that of Gudjon Thordarson, with reports in midweek emphasising his "hairdryer" approach to dealing with errant players. Thordarson, currently manager of struggling IA Akranes in Iceland, is understood to have annoyed Hearts officials with his strikingly public approach during the last seven days. Romanov, who has been made aware of the ex-Stoke City manager's comments, has never favoured those with a loquacious touch in the past. Weiss, by comparison, has largely kept his own counsel. Andrei Zygmantovich, another being considered for the Hearts post and one-time stand-out USSR defender, lacks the necessary coaching credentials to be handed the role full-time.
Given Romanov's history for preparing plans p, q, r and s, let alone a plan b, it would be dangerous to assume that any of the three supposed frontrunners will be appointed. Still smarting from the sudden U-turn of Mark McGhee, Hearts' owner has largely gone back to his eastern European football roots in attempting to stick to his statement of 1 January. At that time, Romanov assured supporters he was seeking a manager who will "preferably have experience of management in British football." Weiss lacks such a credential, but Champions League group stage exploits against the likes of Porto and Internazionale represent a viable alternative. He has also tasted endless domestic silverware success; only a single present manager in the SPL outside the Old Firm, Jim Jefferies, has won a single such trophy.
Fluent in Russian and with at least a basic grasp of English, the 43-year-old should, on paper, appeal to Romanov. Whether Campbell Ogilvie, Hearts' managing director, has a meaningful say on the situation is another matter entirely. Ogilvie, who it is understood had sounded out at least one other SPL manager other than McGhee via a third party, is likely to have preferred a coach based closer to home.
If Weiss is to be appointed, weeks after guiding Artmedia to a Slovakian league and cup double, Cesnauskis believes counter-attacking play will ensue in Gorgie. "Weiss liked the defensive type of game," added the former Dynamo Kiev player. "After you defend well you can get the ball and go on fast attack. I memorised one thing he used to tell us: First we have to 'not lose' and afterwards we can learn to win." And what of a potential alliance with the controversial Romanov? "Hopefully they will be on the same page," said Cesnauskis. "Romanov takes care of finances and he (Weiss] takes care of football. It's important that Weiss is flexible, he has got a versatile mind."
That final quality may be the most vital of all.
In his second spell in charge of Artmedia Bratislava, and regarded as one of the finest coaches in Slovakian history despite his tender age of 43. Weiss gained 19 caps for Czechoslovakia and 12 for Slovakia, representing the former at the 1990 World Cup.
Most famous in Scotland for defeating Celtic en route to the group phase of the 2005/6 Champions League – in which Artmedia held Rangers to two draws – he managed Russian outfit Saturn the following year, guiding them to an impressive fifth in the league, before opting to return home.
A quiet, unassuming individual, Weiss speaks fluent Russian and German, alongside basic English.
Linked with Hearts in the past, the 52-year-old Icelander has endured a troubled season with IA Arkanes in his homeland. Stoke City, Barnsley and Notts County have provided Thordarson with experience of British football, although his tenures at the latter two clubs were largely forgettable. Thordarson also managed the Icelandic national team for two years from 1997.
Famed for unorthodox training regimes and an occasional short fuse with players, Thordarson's friendship with Terry Butcher from the pair's time in England means the former England international, despite being a critic of Vladimir Romanov in the past, would be his Tynecastle assistant.
Won five titles and five Icelandic cups amid more than 400 playing appearances for Arkanes.
The outside candidate of the favoured three, Zygmantovich enjoyed a distinguished career as a defender for Dinamo Minsk, FC Groningen and Racing Santander. He won 36 caps for the USSR, playing and scoring in the 1990 World Cup, before winning nine caps for Belarus.
Now 45, his coaching credentials have caught Romanov's eye in recent times. Zygmantovich coached MTZ Ripo, another part of the Romanov stable, before moving to become an assistant coach with FB Kaunas in Lithuania. However, his lack of UEFA coaching credentials ensure he cannot become the Kaunas manager at present, even though he holds such a post in all but name; such an obstacle would also mean he could only be employed on a caretaker basis at Hearts.