PAULO SERGIO has responded to Kenny Shiels’ criticism with a firm rebuke at the Kilmarnock manager. Having been accused of breaking trust with players by letting the Hearts board banish Marian Kello, Sergio said Shiels was behaving “like a clown”.
The clubs confront one another at Rugby Park this afternoon in a match certain to command heavy interest after the respective managers traded insults. Shiels, pictured right, claimed Sergio lacked principles by agreeing to freeze Kello out at the request of Vladimir Romanov. However, the Portuguese retorted with a performance littered with satire and dry wit as he belittled his Kilmarnock counterpart.
“He’s like a clown,” said Sergio. “I’m saving money every single day when I open the newspapers, instead of going to stand-up comedy and buying a ticket. Every single morning I get a big laugh when I open the newspapers. I know he would like to be here [at Hearts].
“A guy like this talking about principles doesn’t show any kind of ethics for anybody in the game. Now I understand why everybody in the game here is speaking so badly about him. Instead of sticking his nose in other teams, he should look inside his own team at what his players say about him to everybody here.
“I explained the Kello situation. You have a goalkeeper that is attached in future to another club: it’s a risk to the club to play that player, and it’s a risk for the player too.”
Asked if he would shake Shiels’ hand before today’s encounter, Sergio replied: “His hand, and his neck.”
Sergio went on to state that the Northern Irishman’s achievements in football do not give him the right to criticise other managers. “It’s not just with me. We can see that every single day in the newspapers, the manager is speaking about the others. He’s not speaking about his team or his job. With all the titles and the leagues he has won in the past, he has this right,” he joked.
“Everyone in football should learn from him. Maybe it’s a strategy. I remember after Kilmarnock came here and won 1-0 against ten men. The ten men of Hearts played football and deserved a different result. After this he was talking about negative psychology and things like that. Everybody should be learning from him.
“I’m sure that Sir Alex Ferguson is reading these things because it’s a lot of things to learn. I’m so proud to work in this country, a country that has Fergusons and O’Neills in England. The bigger number of managers are Scottish. I think everyone in football is wrong, we should go to Northern Ireland and find these specialists. There is a number one, Mourinho has a lot to learn from him (Shiels)?”
Sergio intends to use Shiels’ comments as motivation for his players today. “We can use it and I hope my players give this guy the answer.”
Sergio went on to explain the situation with Kello, who has held pre-contract talks with other clubs as his Hearts deal expires in June. “I don’t know if he will play again. I don’t know if next week he doesn’t sign a new contract with Hearts. Everything can happen in football. But in this moment I have to give confidence to the others. They have signed new contracts with the club. I trust a lot Jamie MacDonald and Mark Ridgers. Mark is an under-21 national player, Jamie has a lot of qualities, and Kello too. But I think this measure protects Kello and protects the club. It’s a policy thing. Kello is a fantastic goalkeeper, but he has chosen his way. That’s his decision, not mine.
“Nobody is putting a gun to my head saying ‘Kello can’t play’. Of course we discuss it, myself and the board. We arrive at a decision that we’re thinking is the best for the club. We lose 4-0 against Celtic and, if Kello was in goal, what would people be writing after the game? ‘He is not focusing on Hearts’. This protects the club and protects the player, with all the respect I have for Kello. He knows that.”
Jamie Hamill, who played under Shiels at Kilmarnock before moving to Tynecastle last summer, stressed that the Hearts players were taking no notice of Shiels’ comments. “I don’t know if Kenny is trying to play mind games but they certainly won’t work here. We just brush it off and we’re hopefully going to go down to Rugby Park to get a result,” he said.
“Kenny took charge towards the last five or six games and he was okay to work with. I’m not going to say the gaffer here has a lot more experience and is probably a better manager than Kenny, but Kenny was still learning the game under Mixu Paatelainen. It’s good to work under Paulo Sergio.
“Kenny is one of those men who sticks to his guns and goes for it and sometimes I don’t think he thinks before he speaks. We’re all individuals, we all have our own way of thinking. He’s a nice guy but you just have to brush off some of his comments.
“When we go to Rugby Park it doesn’t make a difference whether Kenny Shiels has spoken about us or not, we want to go down there and beat them as comfortably as possible.”
Kilmarnock’s preparations were dealt a major blow when skipper Manuel Pascali broke his leg in a training ground accident yesterday. The 30-year-old Italian defender sustained the fibula injury while stretching for the ball and is out for the rest of the season.
“I am really disappointed for Manuel,” said Shiels. “It is a really big blow for him and the team. He has so much passion to do well, and there was the League Cup final for him coming up.”