Romanov and Jefferies agree Hearts' future is to focus on youth policy

HEARTS owner Vladimir Romanov has said he and Jim Jefferies have agreed on a plan for the club – one that will go ahead no matter where they finish in the SPL this season.

Hearts need only a point at home to Kilmarnock tomorrow in their final game before the split to secure a place in the top six, but even if they succeed Romanov appeared to rule out major spending to buy in new players during the summer. Instead, he stressed the importance of his policy of youth development.

"Regardless of whether Hearts are going to make it into the top six or not, me and the manager Jim Jefferies have long ago developed a strategy for our club's development for the future," said Romanov. "The gist of it is to help our own young players grow into the real stars. That is the only way of doing it in the show business atmosphere of Scottish football."

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Since Jefferies returned to Tynecastle in January, he and Romanov have enjoyed a harmonious relationship which is in stark contrast to the sniping which took place when Csaba Laszlo was in charge. Whereas Laszlo habitually complained about the inexperience of his squad, Jefferies has preferred to declare his faith in his young players, and has been rewarded with improved performances.

And, while some strikers who were signing targets of Laszlo's were publicly dismissed as not good enough by Romanov, Jefferies will be happy to discuss any potential recruits with his employers, to the extent that he will listen to recommendations.

"I'll sit down with them at the end of the season," he said when asked how hopeful he was the Hearts board would agree the team needed new forwards.

"I think they actually know that, but you've got to go about it the right way and put what they feel is a good case for the player you feel is worth taking.

"I don't mind even recommendations, as long as I see them. If we get the recommendations and they've got a good track record, there's nothing wrong with that.

"We'll either get a look at them before the end of the season if they're playing at their clubs, or I'll get them over here and have a look at them. If I feel they're the right players then we'll try and get them."

That process has already tentatively begun, according to Jefferies, who explained he and Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas had discussed potential recruits. "I've been asked 'Give us your thoughts on one or two players coming in', and I'll do that.

"We've not purposely targeted anybody as such for a striking area. It depends on who is coming and going, what we decide at the end of the season. And there's nothing cast in stone yet, who's going to be away and who's going to be staying."

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Even if no new recruits arrive over the summer, Jefferies could feel like he has a new squad if the club are able to cut down on their long-term injuries. Ryan Stevenson and Gordon Smith have been added to the list of casualties for tomorrow's game, while Gary Glen is "extremely doubtful".

With Michael Stewart, Jose Goncalves, Dawid Kucharski, Marian Kello and Janos Balogh still out, Jefferies will have to chop and change for a match which he does not expect to be easy.

"It is a team fighting for their life," he said of Kilmarnock, who are just four points clear of bottom club Falkirk.

"It is not a foregone conclusion. If we go about it in the right way and show the same passion as against Hibs and the first half against Rangers, hopefully we will get through."

Jefferies retains a lot of affection for the club where he was manager for eight years, a period during which he could have left for more lucrative appointments elsewhere. He hopes they will steer clear of relegation, but would rather they did so after failing to pick up any points tomorrow.

"I'm sure they will get clear, but I can't help them this week as we need three points. But I hope they win the following week as I spent eight years there and brought a lot of the players there.

"I had a couple of opportunities to move on but I stayed. I could have made a lot more going elsewhere, but that was how much I enjoyed it down there.

"At the end of the day there comes a times when for everyone's sake it is time to move on. Everyone accepted that.

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"I have had a lot of letters since we left saying they were sorry to see us go. But we move on and my concern is Hearts on Saturday."