Csaba Laszlo still wants to manage in Scotland despite a rather brusing experience at Dundee United.
Different owners, an unsuccessful play-off tilt and a sacking during 11 months at Tannadice have not suppressed the Hungarian’s appetite for football in this country.
He still lives in Edinburgh with his wife and family having settled in the Capital 11 years ago when Hearts appointed him manager. Now 55, Laszlo is currently in Budapest working for the broadcaster SportTV but hopes to land a job in Scotland this summer.
United will soon enter the play-offs again hoping to return to the Premiership at the third attempt. They could not negotiate promotion last year and Laszlo eventually lost his job in September to be replaced by Robbie Neilson, a man he appointed captain at Hearts. He has taken time to reflect but the lure of Scottish football remains strong.
“My first wish is to coach in Scotland but I want to work. If something comes up somewhere else and I decide it is a good move, I have to do it,” Laszlo told the Evening News. “I want to have a new team for the new season. I like Scottish football and I like living in Edinburgh. This is my home and you always want to be at home.
“I had a conversation with Dundee United about being a sports director there. The new owner came and nothing worked out the way I wished. Maybe one time I will work as a sports director because I have a lot of worldwide experience. I am not scared of any job, even to take a national team.”
Watching Hearts is a favourite pastime when he is out of work.
“I spend time with my family and I go to watch games. More or less, my home ground is Hearts so I go to their stadium. This is what I have done mostly. In the last two months, I came back to Budapest to work for SportTV. It is like BBC Sports but more with European football – Champions League, German Bundesliga, not Hungarian football.
“I have also been to many games in Europe. I watched teams in Austria and here in Hungary.”
Vacancies such as the one which arose at Morton following Jonatan Johansson’s weekend exit catch Laszlo’s attention in his homeland.
“I never say never,” he remarked. “I want to work for the longer term, for two or three years with one team. I don’t want to move every six months or every year. I would like a club which has stability to move forward. You can’t work miracles overnight.
“I still want to stay in Scotland. We live in Edinburgh and it looks like me and my family will stay there longer. I want to be near them. It didn’t work out with Dundee United and I am so sorry about this. They belong in the Premiership. It was not the best year for me but we did everything possible there.”
Precious few managers in Scotland can rival Laszlo for experience. Hearts and United aside, he has coached in Germany, Hungary, Uganda, Belgium, Lithuania and Slovakia. At international level, he was assistant to Lothar Matthaus with Hungary and head coach of the Lithuanian national team.
His desire for stability is pertinent given United were controlled by three different regimes during 2018. Stephen Thompson appointed Laszlo but his family’s long control of the Tayside club ended in March when Mike Martin took over as chairman. Martin was then succeeded by the American businessman Mark Ogren in December.
“I never heard of three different owners in one year in my life before,” chuckled Laszlo. “It means three different ideas. I had a really good relationship with Mike Martin and Stephen Thompson. The new owner has a different idea but I enjoyed my time at Dundee United and I met some really good people there. It was definitely not a waste of time to be there.”
Neilson must now guide United through two play-off ties, both two-legged, if they are to regain a Premiership place. They remain one of Scotland’s biggest clubs and most observers – perhaps with the exception of those now digesting their own relegation across the road at Dens Park – are willing them to rejoin the top flight.
Laszlo is one of them. “Everybody was waiting for the club to be successful but already we are waiting three seasons for Dundee United to go back up to the top league. Somehow it has not happened, which is sad,” he explained.
Whoever prevails in the play-off quarter-final between Ayr United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the first leg of which was last night, earns the right to meet United in the semi-final. The winner of that tie then plays the club finishing second bottom of the Premiership, which will either be St Mirren or Hamilton.
“I hope Dundee United can come through the play-offs,” said Laszlo. “Being second in the league table might help them because they don’t need to play in the first play-off round. I hope so.”