Hearts' "Family" as dysfunctional as any other

Vladmimir Romanov has given us a laugh down the years with some of his rants and moans about Scottish football.

However, his handling over the rather unpleasant Craig Thomson affair is causing a rather nasty split within Heart of Midlothian FC, a self-titled "family club", with fans bickering among themselves.

On Tuesday morning, an almost snappily short statement revealed Thomson had been suspended by the club after being charged with indecent behaviour of a lewd and libidinous nature towards two young girls. Perhaps by internal pressure within Tynecastle's corridors, or the threat of further sponsorship withdrawals – who knows?

To say the full-back's initial punishment, or lack of it, had caused a stir among Tynecastle fans would be a massive understatement. Whether suspending him now is enough is still to be seen.

While Thomson apologised for his actions, the fact the club kept the player rather than sacked him over such a serious offence has ignited one hell of a row, involving children's charities and even one of the Jambos' sponsors, water company MacB, who have ripped up a deal with them.

The most unbelievable part of this affair was the statement put up on the club's website over the weekend after the decision to keep Thomson, attempting to deflect away from the storm. If anything, it only served to keep the Edinburgh side in a bad light.


The statement said: "What's happening with the club today is not a new thing. For almost seven years we have been fighting to shield the club from crooks, criminals and thieves. Many of the top players at the club have felt the bitter results of the swindles that have been carried out with them on their own skin.

"[Rudi] Skacel and [Andy] Webster have returned to the club after realising where these 'football patriots' have led them.

"Taking into account the facts that have been omitted by the media it can be presumed that each of these cases is not a coincidence, but the result of targeted actions of a mafia that wants to manipulate the club and the results.

"Every year Hearts fights to be in the top three, but even last season in the last 12 games of the season it was almost like someone replaced the team with a different one. Whose fault is that? Players? Managers? Or is it mafia. Stealing players, bad games, problems with the law – all of that on top of record SFA fines. Problems are just shifted to another level."

The last part of the statement refers to the whopping £100,000 fine imposed on Hearts by the SFA for their poor discipline on the park, the sixth successive year they have been sanctioned.

While Romanov may look to outside influences to blame for indiscipline, the fact remains that recent cases involving Thomson and midfielder Ian Black (arrested, charged and released over possession of class-A drugs) can only be attributed to the players themselves.

In a way, it's sad that the focus of a big club preparing for the new season, having signed experienced SPL campaigners John Sutton (from Motherwell), Danny Grainger (St Johnstone) and ex-Kilmarnock pair Jamie Hamill and Mehdi Taouil, has been overshadowed by this latest episode.

One can only imagine what manager Jim Jefferies makes of the whole affair. After all, he'll have to deal with the fall-out, particularly if there's a dressing room split over Thomson's crimes. Jefferies' comments have been closely guarded thus far, although he has conceded it is "the worst thing I've ever had to deal with." But with Romanov reminding us he's still around displaying his eccentricities, the manager has to just muddle on and try and ignore the circus going on around him.


Hard to do at this moment in time and as the team train in Tuscany, it could be the best thing for them escaping Scotland as the storm rages. It's worth noting Thomson was left behind to train at the club's Riccarton training base.

Despite his suspension, the clamour for his sacking continues with more and more voices adding to the row, with pundits, councillors and children's charities among those urging Hearts' Lithuanian owner to rethink his decision to retain him.

While some fans have argued that Thomson made a mistake and agree with the decision to keep him, a crime as shocking as this would see anyone else dismissed from their job in any other walk of life.

Is Thomson different because he's young and is a footballer? That argument won't wash with those seeking his sacking from the club – and if he is shown the door, the club's image of a "family club" will remain tarnished for a while yet.