Paulo Sergio: 'Hearts need a manager, clock is ticking, fans deserve better but I won't apply'
Portuguese coach is thriving in Saudi Arabia but is worried about former club
Paulo Sergio today advised Hearts not to delay appointing a new manager with Murphy’s Law at play in Gorgie. The Portuguese, currently coaching the Saudi Arabian club Al-Taawoun, believes anything that can go wrong will go wrong with Hearts managerless and joint-bottom of the Premiership.
Sergio is not a contender for the vacancy as he is thriving in the Saudi Pro League, winning five games in succession to take Al-Taawoun to within a point of the top. The 2012 Scottish Cup winner wants his former club to fill the manager’s position soon because he is worried about their current predicament.
In 2017, the unemployed Sergio submitted his CV to the Hearts owner Ann Budge after she sacked head coach Ian Cathro. He was not invited for an interview and Craig Levein subsequently took the job on top of his director of football role. Sergio will not apply again.
“I respect the club that is paying me,” he told the Evening News. “If someone wants me, they have to speak with my club. That is the main reason I can’t apply for the Hearts job. Even if I could, I would not apply because I didn’t like what happened last time.
“If one day Hearts want me back, they know where I am. Maybe I will never get the chance to coach Hearts again but that doesn’t change my feeling for the club. Hearts is in my heart and will be my club forever. I hope life will one day allow me to have a season ticket for Tynecastle and enjoy the passion I have for that club. Nobody can take that out of me.
“I always follow the club and, of course, I am worried right now. I hope Hearts’ situation will be clearer soon for the team to improve and get a better place in the league. The fans there deserve to enjoy every week and be happy.
“After the help Ann has given the club, she deserves better than this but decisions need to be made. Time is running. The team has no confidence, they are not playing good football and not winning. It’s like Murphy’s Law just now - if something can go wrong, it goes badly wrong. I am praying things can change very soon.”
There is, of course, a certain irony in Sergio prospering whilst Hearts search for a new manager. Al-Taawoun can go top of the league if they win their next game - away to champions Al-Nassr tomorrow. “This is a great run for us because we lost three important players to injury and we have had players suspended but we are still getting results,” said the 51-year-old.
“This is a very difficult job because last season the club achieved third place, their best every position, and they won the King’s Cup. We had matches postponed earlier this season because our opponents were playing Asian Champions League ties. We were down the table and people were not happy.
“Now we have a fantastic run of wins. It will be difficult to repeat last season, when clubs were allowed eight foreign players. Now it is seven. I had to let one foreigner go and that gives me some trouble. We are not a big club but we are ahead of some of the big clubs in Saudi so we are positive.
“Saudi is a good market financially and in sporting terms. It is a tough league. Al-Hilal became Asian champions this week. They have [Sebastian] Giovinco, [Bafetimbi] Gomis, they paid millions for [Gustavo] Cuellar from Flamengo [in Brazil]. They also have [Andre] Carillo from Peru. That makes the league very competitive and anyone can beat you.
“The people here don’t have too much patience. They want to change coaches and managers all the time. Things are going very well just now but you lose two games and it becomes: ‘You are no good. You go home.’ It’s a different world and you have to adapt.
“I was here five years ago and society is much more open now. The rights of women are changing a lot and there is more options for young people. I am enjoying this moment, living in a nice city and winning the matches.”