CSABA Laszlo insisted his players had repaid a debt to Hearts supporters by reaching the semi-finals of the Co-operative Insurance Cup and urged them to end their feud with Michael Stewart.
The Hearts captain, jeered from the pitch by his club’s own fans during Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Falkirk at Tynecastle which left Laszlo’s team in ninth place in the SPL, was the match winner at Celtic Park when he scored the only goal of a dramatic quarter-final from the penalty spot.
Stewart barely celebrated the goal, noticeably turning away from the Hearts supporters.
It was enough to send holders Celtic out of the competition, the misery for Tony Mowbray’s men completed when their captain Stephen McManus was sent off in stoppage time. It was Celtic who faced the derision of their own support, but a defiant Mowbray insisted he was not concerned by their form which had seen them now lose seven of his 18 games in charge.
For Hearts, it was a first away victory since February. More significant than a place in the semi-final draw for Laszlo, however, was vindication of Stewart’s crucial role in his team.
“It was very important for Michael Stewart to show he is an honest guy,” said Laszlo. “He is always there for us and I was very happy he didn’t miss the penalty. He is one of our most experienced players and you can’t buy that.
“It is not only important that we got into the last four, it is important to recognise that. We can’t do anything without the supporters, but the supporters can’t do anything without us.
“I have always had a good relationship with our supporters. They have always been fantastic, especially last season. We showed we respect that support. We need the supporters in the bad times as well.
“When we lost 4-0 in Zagreb earlier this season, it was a very bad night and I was very sad for the supporters who went to Croatia. We gave them something back when we won the second leg 2-0 at Tynecastle and we have given the supporters something back again after the draw against Falkirk. Celtic played well, it was an enjoyable game. We had some luck. Two or three times, our central defenders Jose Goncalves and Ismael Bouzid had big misunderstandings. At this level that normally gets punished. But we had good opportunities on the counter attack and both Christian Nade and Andrew Driver should have scored goals. We could have won by more.”
Laszlo went into the match against the backdrop of speculation that Ivan Svadovic, a Polish-born former coach of the Lithuanian Under-19 international side, was about to be named as Hearts’ new sporting director.
The Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov had made a flying visit to Edinburgh to address Laszlo and his players, but the head coach took the latest developments in his stride and insisted he welcomed them.
“We don’t have any sporting director,” said Laszlo. “If the club like to take one on, they are welcome. For the amount of work I have, I would need three sporting directors. I have no problem with it.
“It is always important for the owner to come and speak to the players and show he is behind us. This happened and we were all very impressed. Last year, we also had a meeting when we were told what was important. Players can tell any problems they have direct to the owner.”
Hearts: Balogh, Thomson, Wallace, Bouzid, Stewart, Goncalves, Obua, Black, Nade, Palazuelos, Driver.
Celtic: Zaluska, Hinkel, Fox, Caldwell, Crosas, McManus, McGeady, Zhi, Killen, N’Guemo, Maloney.