Hearts want to keep me, says Paulo Sergio

PAULO Sergio believes the Hearts board want him to continue as manager beyond the end of the season.

The Portuguese succeeded Jim Jefferies in the Tynecastle hotseat in August on a deal until the end of the current campaign, and, since then, has had to cope with numerous off-field issues this term, most notably the delayed payment of players in three successive months and constrained finances.

Nevertheless, Sergio is optimistic of staying at the club next term and that he has the support of owner Vladimir Romanov and the club directors.

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Ahead of tomorrow’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final with St Mirren, Sergio said: “I speak very openly. I know it’s in the interests of the board to keep me here – we’ve spoken already about that. I’m very happy.

“I feel that I belong to a fantastic club with great supporters, with great history, that are living a hard period. If I’m going to be (here) or not that depends on some details, but that’s not important at this moment.

“What is important is that the board already have said to me – and we are working on the future of the club – they want me here next season. I’m happy, but if I’m going to be here or not we will see.”

For the immediate future, Sergio is focused on St Mirren, with the winners advancing to a semi-final at Hampden. Asked if he has been to the national stadium, the headquarters of the Scottish Football Association, to see a game, Sergio said: “Just to speak with the SFA (for disciplinary reasons). It’s a fantastic stadium, very nice. I had an opportunity to see the pitch and it’s going to be great if we’re going to be there.

“Getting to a semi-final means a lot but for that we have to beat St Mirren. We have to give our best performance as they are a good team with good organisation.”

Hearts beat Danny Lennon’s side 5-2 on 14 January despite being reduced to ten men early on when Marius Zaliukas was dismissed on 12 minutes. Zaliukas had already opened the scoring, Rudi Skacel grabbed a hat-trick and John Sutton was also on target in the high- scoring win.

But Hearts went on to claim one point from a possible 15 in the five subsequent SPL games before beating beleaguered Rangers 2-1 last weekend.

Sergio added: “Forget the 5-2. It’s another game and we should be focused and at our best level to go through.”

Asked if home advantage puts extra pressure on the team to progress to the quarter-finals tomorrow, Sergio said: “All the teams left in the competition deserve to be there and there are no easy games.

“No-one puts more pressure on winning than myself. I want to win every game, some we can, some we cant. But St Mirren is all that is in my head at the moment.”

Hearts are set to again be without winger David Templeton because of a groin injury, while midfielder Scott Robinson is a doubt due to illness.