Sergio says Hearts didn’t disappoint him

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A DEFIANT Paulo Sergio has come out fighting ahead of tomorrow’s SPL trip to St Johnstone, insisting the criticism of his side’s Scottish Communities League Cup exit at the hands of First Division Ayr in midweek is lacking in perspective.

As Hearts set off for Perth intent on stretching their unbeaten SPL run to seven games, an animated Sergio launched a staunch defence of the side he picked in midweek and the performance they produced before losing on penalties. He was also extremely irked by perceived criticism from other coaches whom he wouldn’t name, although Kilmarnock assistant boss Jimmy Nicholl seems to be the main target of his ire.

“I’m reading in the papers other coaches saying stupid things and criticising me about the team I picked at Ayr,” he said. “I just want to remind them that those players did very well at Tottenham and they deserved to play on Wednesday. Maybe these guys who don’t respect a colleague professionally are trying to get themselves some publicity. I always respect and encourage other people in my profession, like when Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon lost in the Europa League and when people are talking about sacking Craig Brown at Aberdeen. I like to encourage them and say that I’m on their side. For me, it’s awful to read someone who I don’t really know saying stupid things about me. I’ve got a message for them: let’s wait until the end of the season and see who is happier.”

Sergio insists the performance at Ayr was nowhere near as bad as is being made out and is confident his first-choice XI will be capable of notching a first league win away since February.

“My players didn’t disappoint me in midweek. Of course we can do better, but we did more than enough to deserve to win the game. Ninety-nine per cent of the 120 minutes we were in the Ayr United half all the time looking for chances to score. Ayr had five or six counter-attacks that we defended well apart from the one where Marius slipped.

“Also, everybody could see there was no handball for the goal we had chalked off. Of course I’m disappointed to go out the cup, but if we are 2-0 up after 65 minutes, it’s game over. I’ve no complaints about the attitude. There are reasons why we are out of the cup. But just because we are out the cup, our progress doesn’t stop. We now have to look to the league. St Johnstone have had some unexpected results. Sometimes they are dropping points against teams of a similar value and then they are beating the better teams like Celtic and Motherwell away. I saw them on Tuesday against St Mirren and we have to be careful when we play them.”

Sergio hopes to have everyone available tomorrow except long-term injury victims Kevin Kyle, Marian Kello, Calum Elliot and Gary Glen.