Paulo Sergio is contender for Manager of the Year award - Danny Grainger

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PAULO SERGIO was today endorsed as a candidate for Scotland’s Manager of the Year award after guiding Hearts to the Scottish Cup final and challenging for European football.

Danny Grainger, the club’s left-back, believes Sergio’s steadying influence and guidance have been crucial to Hearts’ fortunes this season. He said the Portuguese is a contender for manager of the year, with others such as Neil Lennon, Stuart McCall and Derek Adams also expected to be in the running.

“I think he’s a contender,” said Grainger. “Looking at what we’ve done this year proves he’s a good manager. There are a lot of good managers out there with people like Derek McInnes getting his move (to Bristol City). There have been a lot of good managers in the SPL this season and Paulo has proved that.

“He’s tried to keep us as positive as possible. Looking at everything that was happening off the pitch, he tried to tell us it would sort itself out. He told us some of his experiences that he’s been through. To be able to go to someone like Paulo Sergio and some of the other boys is great.”

Ahead of Rangers’ visit to Tynecastle today, Ally McCoist also took time to praise Sergio’s contribution to the Scottish game. “They (Hearts) are a good team, there’s no doubt about that. I think their manager is one of the top guys in the country,” said the Rangers manager.

“I think he has a fantastic knowledge of the game and he’s a very good coach. His team, on their day, are capable of beating anyone. They beat us at Ibrox and Celtic at Hampden so they are more than a match for anyone when they have their players fit and playing well.

“They had a great result at the weekend, let’s be totally honest about it. I don’t think it was that much of a shock given the fact that they have already beaten Celtic and Rangers.

“They are capable of doing it and although Celtic were obviously favourites going in to the game if Hearts can play well, which they did, they are more than a match for anyone.

“So their spirits will be tremendously buoyant and they will be looking forward to all their games and especially that cup final at the end of the season.”