Football

"It Was Like A Russian Mafia Movie": Stephen Elliott's Bizarre Story About The Ex-Owners Of Hearts

"It Was Like A Russian Mafia Movie": Stephen Elliott's Bizarre Story About The Ex-Owners Of Hearts

Between 2005 and 2014, Heart of Midlothian FC was governed by the Romanov dynasty. Given the way in which his namesakes' stewardship of Russia ended in 1917, the more historically aware Hearts fans might have been forgiven a sense of foreboding.

And yet it began with such bullishness. Romanov declared in 2005 that Hearts would win the Champions League under his regime. There's two kinds of administrative bullishness - the kind that cheers supporters and gees them up for the coming season. And there's the other kind, the kind that prompts supporters to worry about the mental state of their owner and question the nature of his relationship to reality. This latter kind of bullishness tends to fill more astute supporters with trepidation.

Romanov's declaration that Hearts would bring home Europe's greatest prize was definitely of the latter variety. Predictably, Romanov eventually departed the club without the Champions League trophy clutched under his oxters.

The Romanov family's reign in Russia ended with them being gunned down by Bolsheviks in a hideaway in Yekaterinburg. Vladimir Romanov's reign at Hearts ended with the club in administration. So, more or less the same miserable legacy.

Republic of Ireland attacker Stephen Elliott spent two seasons at Hearts between 2010 and 2012. In his first season, they jostled with the Old Firm at the top of the table and eventually fell away to third place. In his second, he helped them win the Scottish Cup Final.

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However, one of Elliott's most vivid memories of his spell at Hearts revolved around the oddity that was the Romanovs.

He has written an article today for SportsDec about his time with the club. From the moment of his signing, when he was eyed up and down by four immaculately dressed Eastern European guys who spoke to each other in Russian. Elliott's agent told him it reminded him of something out of a Russian mafia movie.

And then there was the matter of the impromptu speeches in the dressing room, which would be translated into English by Mr. Romanov's right hand man, the very agreeable Sergejus Fedotovas.

Mr. Romanov would walk into the room, shake everyone's hand and launch into what appeared to be a tirade.

It was here that Sergejus came into his own in becoming the ‘perfect’ translator.

As Romanov was seemingly having a bit of a rant, Sergejus would speak after his every sentence saying that the chairman would like to say “how pleased he was with us and that if we continued competing with the top two we would be rewarded accordingly'.

He also translated him saying that he was “so proud of the unbeaten run we had gone on'. It sounded like he was delighted how things were going and if I'm being honest, I was sitting in the dressing room thinking that these guys were not as bad as I first thought.

Unfortunately for the diplomatic Mr. Fedotovas, Hearts boasted a native speaker, Marius Zaliukas, who was able to inform the players of what the owner had actually said.

Marius informed us that instead of saying all those nice things originally translated by Sergejus, Romanov told us that “we were all a bunch of losers and had bottled it against Celtic last week'.

He also said that “he would not be paying any of the win bonuses we were due for the successful run of games, as we were a disgrace to be beaten in the manner we were'.

Such events weren't unusual in the Romanov dynasty. Another reason why he sits at the top of the all-time list of football chairmen who remind us of Bond villains.

Read more: 6 Agonising Times Teams Threw Away League Titles On The Final Day

Read more: Packie Bonner, Anthony Nash And Others Who Helped Inspire Rule Changes In Their Sport

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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