Vladimir Romanov’s stewardship of Hearts was chaotic, dramatic and downright eccentric, but never dull. The Russian businessman gained as many admirers as detractors during his eight-year tenure at Tynecastle. Perhaps his most memorable moment is this one in May 2006.
The night Hearts secured a Champions League qualifying place by beating Aberdeen, Romanov found himself overcome with elation. He left his seat as the final whistle sounded to jump on to the wall in front of the directors’ box in the stadium’s old main stand, clinching his fists above his head in delight.
A potential place in Europe’s biggest football tournament was like the holy grail for a man who had only ever run football clubs in Eastern Europe. Taking Hearts into a tournament they hadn’t played in for decades meant Romanov was hailed as a messiah by some sections of the club’s support.
He stood accused of picking the team via fax and freezing players out when they wouldn’t sign new contracts. Yet he was the man who was behind the success in season 2005/06. Perhaps the stress of it all led to that very emotional outburst in front of a packed Tynecastle.
Hearts went on to lift the Scottish Cup that season by beating Gretna on penalties in the final at Hampden Park. However, that success didn’t appeal just as much to Romanov. His focus was on establishing Hearts as a major European force.
Of course, it didn’t materialise. Players revolted the following season and manager after manager came and went in Gorgie until the Romanov regime finally crashed. In June 2013, Hearts entered administration with debts approaching £30million - Romanov and his directors signing off with an email wishing staff good luck as administrators BDO prepared to move in.
It was a needless end to an unforgettable era that will live long in the minds of everyone who played for, managed, directed or supported Hearts at the time. Perhaps that one moment on May 3, 2006, encapsulated all of it.
The wall Romanov climbed upon is now a pile of dust after the main stand was demolished just a few weeks ago. Hearts are building a bespoke £12million replacement to modernise their stadium, improve facilities and increase capacity.
There are no plans to have a wall in front of the new directors’ box as such, so Romanov can rest assured that no-one will be able to steal his thunder.