The Hearts manager had been critical of referee Iain Brines over his handling of the Edinburgh club’s League Cup tie with Ayr, and a row between the club and the governing body was ongoing when Brines was appointed fourth official for a league match against Dunfermline. When Sergio said that Brines should not have been appointed while the dispute went on, the SFA called a disciplinary hearing.
Although Sergio’s comments were filmed and posted on the Hearts website, among other outlets, the club complained that two or three journalists had reported Sergio’s comments to the SFA in the hope of getting a reaction. Hearts decided that ending press conferences and other official co-operation with the media was the best response.
It emerged around the same time that Hearts had failed to pay their players’ wages for October, but the club insisted that issue had not been a factor in the ban. Initially imposed until Sergio’s hearing at the start of November, the ban was extended until the end of last year.
It was lifted unexpectedly earlier this week, when Sergio spoke on television after Hearts’ victory in the Edinburgh derby. That was followed by his half-hour discussion at Riccarton yesterday with newspaper, radio and television reporters.
Asked by one radio journalist what he thought of Hearts’ claim that some journalists had tried to get him into trouble, Sergio replied: “It is your job to try to put me in trouble. If you do that with respect, you have my respect.
“I believe it’s your job to ask hard questions and put me in trouble. Your boss likes that, no?”