Sunday, November 20, 2011

Blogathon: Where's Vlad Going?

The Homeless World Cup and Alzheimer Scotland. Two charities doing fantastic work. You know the donation drill.

Penultimate post time.

A suggestion from @theftblproject just minutes ago planted the seed for this post.

His Tweet read:

"In your very first post you wrote "Maybe Mr Romanov knows where this is going" - Five years on, does he?"

That was five years ago tomorrow.

I honestly didn't think Vladimir Romanov would still own Hearts in November 2011.

But he does.

In the interim he's spent vast sums of money, indulged in a footrace with Hibs to see which Edinburgh club could get through the most managers and assembled a huge squad.

Back in 2006 Hearts were coming off the back of a season where they'd won the Scottish Cup - and already this morning I've been forced to write glowingly of a certain semi final victory - and split the Old Firm in the SPL.

Yet by that November I was forced to wonder if Romanov knew where it was going.

It was a quick descent from a heady beginning.

Hearts, it must be said, have not been chumps these past five years.

Far from it.

But the promise of the early months quickly dissipated. As I said in my post with Laurie Dunsire, when I was tasked with "selling" Hearts to a new owner, Romanov had the right dreams, he might even just about have invested enough money. But his strategy has lacked too much direction.

He spent most of his money on over priced foreign imports. The rest he just squandered.

That's not the fault of any particular mafia, it's probably not even the fault - much as I like to pin everything on him - of Rupert Murdoch.

Has Vladimir Romanov being treated in a way that a Scottish owner wouldn't be?

Perhaps. But then I've never heard of a Scottish owner leaving out nuts for the "media monkeys." The dysfunctional aspect of the relationship has been reciprocal.

Time yet, though, to appraise the reign of Romanov.

For now we appear to have reached something like the end. Or the beginning of the end.

As @theftblproject asks, does Romanov now know where this is going?

To which the honest response is: can anyone genuinely begin to guess whether he does or he doesn't?

What is he trying to sell?

A great football club. That's clear. And a club with potential within the limits of Scottish club football.

A stadium that has a saleable value but, as yet, not an easily or cheaply available suitable alternative location.

A gargantuan squad that requires major pruning but also contains some fine young assets.

A colossal debt that is owed to the bank controlled by Vladimir Romanov.

To further muddy the waters there also seems to be certain issues besetting the Lithuanian banking sector. That might have no impact at all. Or it might have a major impact.

Finally there is an owner who wants away and is eyeing up a transfer into the theatre world.

What do Hearts need?

An interested party.

And an indication of what exactly Romanov's exit strategy actually is.

An indication that you want to sell and sharing your love of the theatre is grand. Saying you're not putting any more money in is fine.

But when you control that level of debt in a company potential buyers need to know more.

Until that information is forthcoming we can't know how this will play out.

We could be in this state of flux for a while: Hearts developing a strategy to live within their means while Romanov lets them get on with it.

Or it could be quicker. I can't see someone coming in willing to take on the debt but a deal that wouldn't destroy the new owner's bank balance nor hurt Romanov's pride would be in the best interests of everyone.

And a stable Hearts, a Hearts sure of their financial footing, is also in the best interests of Scottish football.

But only time will tell.

So, there we are.

5 years and 1020 articles later, I can say it again:

"Maybe Mr Romanov knows where this is going."

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