Vladimir Romanov has brought in a good guy in Paulo Sergio. He has done a fantastic job so far, comes across as a very likeable guy and the players seem to have a great bond with him. They trust and respect him and it’s important you have that kind of relationship in a dressing-room.
I was at the semi-final and I think that tactically he is very astute. That could be the key tomorrow, he has good tactical knowledge of his side, whereas Pat Fenlon is still trying to find out about his team because he has been in the job for a relatively short period of time and brought in a number of players on loan in January.
In the past, there has been a lot said about Vladimir Romanov and how involved he is. But I don’t know how much influence he has nowadays, because Sergio keeps his counsel and gets on with the job. When you become part of Hearts, you know the owner always has more of a say than perhaps he would at other clubs. Even with that in mind, I really enjoyed my time at Hearts because, fair play to him, whether you agree or disagree, Vladimir Romanov tells you straight to your face.
You can say what you like, but Mr Romanov tells the truth. He’s said that he won’t be putting money into the side and will be taking the club down the youth route. If people aren’t impressed with that, then it’s tough. I really like that kind of attitude. He is a straight-talking guy and if he has something to say, he will say it. Although his demands are very high, I think the fans are very realistic since the departure of George Burley and I think they are more forgiving, too.
Sergio has a lot of quality in his side. Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas are a terrific pairing. Yes, they had a bad weekend at Celtic, but they would be trying to avoid injuries, so they were maybe just 20 per cent down on normal competitive nature. Ian Black and Rudi Skacel have been a real thorn in the flesh of Hibs in recent times and Hearts have a number of players who have been over the course before. I’m sure that, with their experience, they won’t be overawed by the occasion. But this is not only a cup final, it’s a game against your biggest rivals.
The real Hearts guys in the squad will be able to express to the other ones how it is as well, and I think Hearts have more aces in their pack in terms of experience.
The one thing that could work against Sergio and his players is that they will go into the game as favourites and they have to keep that thought out of their heads.
Hibs are the underdogs. A lot of people fancy Hearts to lift the trophy and you can understand why. Their record against Hibs is good – in fact it’s exceptional.
The bookies, the general media and a lot of neutrals would probably give Hearts the edge in this one, but being labelled as favourites is not always a good thing. I don’t think that the manager will allow his players to have that mindset, but it does permeate into the dressing-room from supporters. Or maybe the players will have read it in the papers, heard it on the radio, or from fans when they’re out eating a meal in a restaurant.
Social networking is also a nightmare for clubs these days and the manager has to deal with it, telling his players to switch all of these things off and not look at their phones or laptops until after the final.