Past experience of wage woes helped Kello through tough times

HEARTS’ financial problems may be as real now as they were three months ago, but the players’ response to them has changed dramatically. From the day in mid-October when their salaries failed to materialise, the Tynecastle team went on to win just one of their next seven games. Today they go into their home game with St Mirren hoping to stretch their unbeaten run to six.

For goalkeeper Marian Kello, the reason for that transformation is clear. Although at first many players were unable to clear their heads of their money worries, after a while those who had gone through hard times before were able to help their team-mates focus.

“It definitely wasn’t easy, because you would go into training and see all the boys and you knew some were thinking about things which are important for living rather than football,” the Slovakian international said. “But for me, I think I am experienced enough to cope with the situation. I have been in similar situations before, so I was still able to motivate myself.

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“At the beginning of the bad situation all the players were much more frustrated than they are now. They were not ready to deal with something like this and we didn’t cope with it very well. You could see the frustration at training because all this stuff was going on in your head and it was the same in games as well.

“You go into games wanting to play your best, but if all week you are thinking about other stuff and every day you are talking about the situation and what is going on you can’t just switch off and give your best on the pitch. That’s just impossible. That’s why it wasn’t that good at the beginning. But recently we have settled down with the situation, things have got better.”

Now 29, Kello has known from the early years of his career what it is like to go without wages. “It happened to me when I was younger in Slovakia,” he explained. “My club Kosice had very big problems and after a while they went bankrupt. I did not see any salary for seven months – and I haven’t seen anything from them yet.

“I have suffered delays at each club I have been at, but it doesn’t make it any easier. But if it happens to you many times you know how to cope with it. It didn’t come as a great shock to me.

“In my country that can happen, because we don’t have such a powerful association to deal with that kind of stuff. So if a club goes bankrupt what can you do? But I don’t think that will happen to Hearts. It was difficult in the dressing room, because for the Scottish players this was not acceptable. It has never happened here. It was all new for them and that’s why they needed more time to sit down and talk about it, and that’s why there was more frustration.

“So in the dressing room there were some players who had experienced this before and who were convinced we would see our money. And then there were the Scottish players, who were arguing more with the staff. But we were all fighting for the same thing.”

The Hearts players have currently been paid up to date, and have been told by director Sergejus Fedotovas to expect their January salaries as normal on Monday. Even so, the club still needs to get players off the wage bill this month, and Kello knows that if the right offer for him or any other player comes in this month, Hearts will accept it. But he is in no hurry to leave. He said: “I am happy here, that’s the first thing. I am not bursting to get away from here. The situation is my contract is up in the summer and right now I am concentrating on doing my work each day. Each game is important. I just want to help the team.

“And if I can help the team, for example, by helping them raise money by selling me then I am going to do it, because the club needs money. Hearts gave me an opportunity to come here and it has been an honour and if I can give them something back then I would definitely accept this situation to help the team. I am just waiting for a phone call from my agent and then we will see what happens.”

Kello has been linked with Celtic, but until he gets that call from his agent telling him Neil Lennon is interested, he will continue to treat it as speculation. “Sometimes somebody says something, but if nobody says anything to me it means nothing,” he said.