Hearts boss Paulo Sergio says another “tough” William Hill Scottish Cup tie, at home to St Mirren next month, is his team’s reward for shedding “sweat and blood” during victory in last night’s fifth-round replay against St Johnstone.
Sergio’s side won 2-1 in dramatic fashion after extra time in Perth, with Jamie Hamill’s equalising penalty arriving two minutes into injury time and Marius Zaliukas striking the winning goal with just three minutes of extra time to spare.
The Portuguese manager is today savouring the prospect of a quarter-final tie against Danny Lennon’s Buddies at Tynecastle on March 10 or 11, but he stopped short of entering into discussion on the financial implications of cup progress.
“To be honest, I don’t know if it’s a lot of money or not,” admitted Sergio. “What I do know, from a sporting point of view – because I’m more concerned with that – is that when you are in the Cup there’s no difference with what you want for your team, to go as far as you can.
“We know that St Mirren is going to be hard because they are a very good team. That 5-2 win we had against them earlier in the season says nothing to me. It’s going to be a good challenge for us because St Mirren are a good team with good direction from Danny [Lennon] and Tommy [Craig] – very nice people. It’s what we wanted, to be there, and to face one more challenge.”
Sergio was without the services of influential midfielder Ian Black last night and made further changes to his team. The manager admitted that Hearts’ busy schedule of games is causing his playing resources to become stretched, a situation that he says renders last night’s win at McDiarmid Park all the more impressive.
“We shouldn’t forget that this team is playing nine games in four weeks,” said Sergio. “It’s normal that some of our players are not fresh enough to make good decisions and do better things on the pitch. In some parts of the pitch, we don’t have enough solutions. For all that, I think winning this game is well-deserved, with lots of sweat and blood on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, Hearts have settled an outstanding tax bill of £150,000 and expect to process this month’s wages tomorrow. The club faced a winding-up order for the six-figure sum from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and has failed to transfer salaries to playing staff on the agreed date in each of the last four months.
The Gorgie club has faced legal action over unpaid tax five times in recent years, with £500,000 paid to HMRC late last year to fend off a winding-up order. The latest winding-up order was presented earlier this month and Hearts had until today to pay the full amount.
Club director Sergejus Fedotovas is now confident that funds are in place to allow the payment of players’ wages tomorrow.
He said: “We have paid the tax bill and this has all been resolved. I don’t have any reason to be worried [that the wages won’t be paid on time]. There were problems in the past but they were all sorted.
“Nobody can give you guarantees that you are going to prosper in the future or if players are not going to get injured. We live in a natural world with a natural business and we want to improve and make it better.”