Defender Grainger has worked under a host of well-known managers, including current Scotland boss Craig Levein, Derek McInnes (now at Bristol City) and ex-Jambos gaffer Jim Jefferies.
The 25-year-old former St Johnstone and Dundee United defender says that an emphasis on passing and a more laid-back outlook sets former Sporting Lisbon supremo Sergio apart from his previous coaches.
“You can see the European side of the manager’s tactics,” said Grainger. “He likes us to pass the ball and it’s different from in Scotland where it’s about getting the ball forward and play with a target man and play from there.
“The manager likes us to play the ball about and training is maybe not as intense as some Scottish managers. He brings in a different view.
“I’ve worked with the likes of Craig Levein, Derek McInnes and Jim Jefferies for a short-time so the gaffer now is different.”
Grainger went on to reveal how Sergio’s relatively “hands-off” role is perceived as an indication of confidence in the other coaches at the Hearts training base at Riccarton. When appointed the successor to Jefferies last summer, Sergio brought compatriots Alberto Cabral and Sergio Cruz with him to Scotland to assist with coaching responsibilities. Gary Locke, who was part of Jefferies’ and Billy Brown’s coaching team previously at the Gorgie club, was retained by Sergio and continues to play an active role in preparing the first team for match day.
“He leaves a lot of it to his coaches, Lockie, Sergio [Cruz] and Berti [Cabral],” said Grainger of his manager. “He’s got a lot of respect for them and just oversees a lot.
“But when he needs to step in, he does, and gets his point across.”
Grainger was due to face St Mirren in the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-finals at Tynecastle this afternoon and go head to head with a team now managed by his former mentor, Danny Lennon. Lennon was a youth team coach at Grainger’s first club, Gretna, for part of the Hearts No. 3’s six-year spell at the Dumfriesshire outfit. Penrith-born Grainger was a teenager when first-team player Lennon took charge of his team and feels indebted to the for the role he performed in developing young players.
“As a youth-team player, his training was really good,” said Grainger of Lennon. “He was always very positive and every time he spoke it was a positive approach and it made you believe in yourself as a player. I owe him a lot.”
At the start of today, Grainger and Hearts harboured hopes of reaching the Scottish Cup semi-final, with the left-back revealing that last week’s victory at Rangers, coupled with the prospect of a last-four tie at Hampden, has helped instil added vigour to training at Riccarton in the last week.
“Winning at Ibrox is always a buzz,” he said. “Now, we’ve got a big game on Saturday and we all want to be in the starting XI to get to Hampden.
“The training has been intense and everyone is trying to impress the manager.”
In the other quarter-final ties, Hibs were preparing to visit Ayr United this afternoon, while Dundee United v Celtic and Motherwell v Aberdeen will both be played tomorrow.
Grainger says that the earlier elimination of Rangers and the imminent removal from the competition of either Dundee United or Celtic will make for an “open” tournament.
“Once one of the Old Firm goes out everyone thinks this could be their year,” he said. “Dundee United thought that, after they knocked Rangers out two seasons ago, they could be the ones who won it, then when Ross County beat Celtic it opened it up even more.
“Obviously Celtic or Dundee United may go out this weekend and they’re two of the stronger teams in the league.
“So there’s no reason why a team outwith the Old Firm can win it again.”