Hearts boss hails players for form despite wages row

Hearts manager Paulo Sergio
Hearts manager Paulo Sergio
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PAULO SERGIO today revealed the key to Hearts’ recent impressive form, explaining that his players are focusing purely on football after becoming distracted by off-the-field issues earlier this season.

With all wages paid up to date, the Hearts squad are comfortable with the club’s financial situation and have retrained their attention to on-field matters. They head to Inverness tomorrow seeking a sixth win in seven matches.

According to Sergio, the turnaround is down to the players enjoying football again after wage delays in October, November and December impacted on results.

“I believe the determination and character never fails in the team,” said the manager. “During a period this season we lost our focus. Football is not just about running more than the others, it’s about pleasure and joy to do your work properly, and we lost a little bit of that.

“In some games we were unlucky, too. I remember Rangers at home, in that period when the problems started, we were very good in that game and after with Kilmarnock, too, with ten men.

“Sometimes you don’t have an explanation for these things – there are a lot of things involved that can mess with you – but I really believe in that period nobody was able to deal with the problem and everyone was looking for what we were going to do.

“And when you lose focus on important things and start thinking about other things, you’re going to lose something in the main one. I think it was that and not a lack of determination or character. I believe they are more focused now they have learned to deal with it.”

David Templeton and Ryan McGowan are available tomorrow, although Andy Driver and Danny Grainger remain injured and Marius Zaliukas is suspended.

“Driver is still out, but Templeton has recovered for this weekend,” explained Sergio. “Grainger has started his recovery, but he will not be back for this weekend. He and Driver are both out. Ryan McGowan is back from suspension and Marius is out. Other than that we have almost everyone.”

Sergio is confident of a successful conclusion to negotiations between Hearts and Rudi Skacel, whose contract expires at the end of the month. The Czech, who scored a hat-trick in last week’s win over St Mirren, has publicly complained about his recent role as substitute; however, Sergio said he would not be influenced by such talk.

“I really believe there will be a happy ending because Rudi wants to stay,” he said.

“I am happy when he plays and I am happy when he is on the bench. I am always happy with Rudi when he is working.

“But it is my decision and I don’t listen to any messages from him through the newspapers or anywhere else.”