Friday, February 16, 2007

Vlad's Back Part Four

The latest statement from Tynecastle pulls one of Vladimir Romanov’s favourite tricks. He is the wronged party, attacked at every turn by a Scottish establishment that seems to mistrust any new kids on the block.

Interestingly enough Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove made a point about the media’s treatment of Romanov being in some way racist on Off the Ball a few weeks ago. I disagree with that analysis and, it must be noted, Vladimir doesn’t seem to have too high an opinion of Scots.

But the statement, in my opinion, doesn’t fully convince as a disavowal of the earlier interview. Romanov concedes that there is no corruption in the Scottish game. That seems to take care of the allegations of “buy-offs” in the Daily Record transcript.

But – and inevitably there is a but where Vlad is concerned – the talk of player “betrayal,” “hooped shirts,” “kids being pushed” and “seduction of the soul” seem to chime with comments in the earlier interview.

Does that mean the much maligned translator has made only one or two mistakes? Or that the Daily Record deliberately and knowingly included “distortion” in their story? Or that the Russian journalist – who must be bemused by the storm this has created - lied in the original interview?

The Andy Webster comment and the national team remarks leave me quite bamboozled. Given his extensive knowledge of UEFA’s rule on club ownership and loan deals, I would have felt that Romanov would have few quibbles with a player exercising his legal right. I’m not sure which Hearts players have badly let down the national team while on Romanov’s payroll.

George Burley, Phil Anderton, Graham Rix and George Foulkes probably all agree with Romanov that there is very little “heroic” about betrayal. But will Romanov now only sign players that are out of contract. Or will the lure of his wages and a maroon shirt not “seduce” players from other clubs. Will that be a betrayal of their clubs?

As for the Edinburgh section at the end. Well, you tell me? Who are these monkeys? Is it a dig at Tom Ponton for questioning the valuation of the land around Tynecastle?

The bizarre Photoshop monkey would seem to point at the media but Edinburgh’s paper, the Evening News, tends to display only sickening acquiescence to the city’s clubs and – thank God – does not rule the city.

So it was Vlad’s day. Again. But we’re not really any closer to finding out the truth about the interview or what his motives were with the statement of denial. If the statement was intended to calm things down it has failed. The monkey picture is a PR disaster that the media will pounce on.

Does he love publicity? Once again he has put himself and Hearts at the centre of a media storm that has now gone global. A Google News search reveals the story is being run in Australia, America and the United Arab Emirates. But surely nobody craves this kind of publicity?

Is he creating an exit strategy by showing that despite his efforts he can’t succeed against the obstacles that Scotland has put in his way? Only he can tell us that and I doubt he’ll do that anytime soon. So we wait and we wait. We hypothesise and we gossip but we don’t really know.

It will be up to history to judge if Pressley and company betrayed Hearts or if the Romanov rollercoaster will derail. All we can say is that, with this interview and this statement, Romanov has done very little that could be called “heroic” for Hearts. But as if to prove that his unpredictability is his only consistent trait Romanov has ordered Craig Gordon back into the squad for this weekend's game.

Truly Vlad moves in mysterious ways.