Nicholl plays down row with Hearts boss

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Kilmarnock assistant coach Jimmy Nicholl has revealed his anger at being branded “stupid” by Hearts manager Paulo Sergio as the two clubs prepare to meet at Tynecastle this weekend.

The Irishman maintains he did not criticise Sergio’s team selection for last month’s League Cup defeat at Ayr United, and said he was embarrassed by the subsequent public slanging match.

Sergio spoke out after comments attributed to Nicholl questioned the eight changes to the Hearts team for the Ayr tie, which the Edinburgh club lost on penalties. Nicholl argues that he never spoke about Hearts, but, at the time, he was labelled “stupid” and “disrespectful” by the Portuguese manager.

“I was embarrassed by the way it came out because I’ve no interest in how other people manage their clubs. The game is hard enough,” said Nicholl, who will approach Hearts coach Gary Locke tomorrow and ask him to set the record straight with his manager.

“The whole thing was a total joke. We had drawn East Fife at home, I was doing the media and I said East Fife would be treated with the same respect as Queen of the South in the last round. I said we’d be at full strength again. Someone then said ‘not like Hearts last night’ and told me they’d left so many players out at Ayr. I didn’t know how many they’d left out, I just wasn’t interested.

“I told the media I didn’t know how many boys Hearts had left out, and I went on to say I’d worked with Jimmy Calderwood for ten years at Dunfermline and Aberdeen and we’d never done that. I never said he [Sergio] shouldn’t have done it. I said we’ve never done it and we don’t intend doing it against East Fife. I never said, ‘oh, is that right? Well, Sergio deserves what he got because he shouldn’t have done it’. I’ve got no interest in it. But someone then goes back to Sergio and says, ‘Jimmy Nicholl says you shouldn’t have done that’. It was totally different.

“Sergio came back and said ‘it’s somebody being stupid, he wants some self-publicity to try and get himself a big job’.

“I’m really disappointed with the way it came out. I’ll speak to Lockie about it so he can explain to the manager. As long as he realises that’s not how it was put. Sergio doesn’t know me and anybody who does know me knows I wouldn’t dream of saying things like that. It’s of no interest to me. I was disappointed with Sergio’s response, but I’ll tell Lockie how it was, and that’s it.”

n YOUNG Hearts midfielder star Jason Holt is set to sign a new three-year deal with the Tynecastle club.

* FORMER Hearts striker Jamie Mole has joined English Conference North side Blyth Spartans.