The Mirror, 17/11/2005, p70 & 71
By SHAUN MILNE
HIS nose is running, his throat’s gone but Graham Rix doesn’t care – he might be suffering from a cold but he can’t wait to make his debut as coach of Hearts.
It’s a different world from the chill he suffered as a scout trying for a break this time last year.
He applied for dozens of jobs yet his impressive CV or, more accurately, he himself, always got the cold shoulder from clubs because of his record.
The criminal record, that is, which charted an offence against a teenage girl – not the sporting one that should have shone out brightly from beneath the cloud of shame.
Now that’s about to change when he steps out at Pittodrie on Sunday in full glare of the TV cameras.
He said: “It’s not about me – the Hearts supporters need to be behind the team and the club and want them to do well. They’ve got to give them everything.
“If that means getting behind me, so be it. But they should be the ones buzzing about us being top of the league and having so many good players. I want them to be buzzing.
“It’s a big game for obvious reasons for me. I want to get off to a flyer but there are still lots of games left.
“It’s not very often you get a chance of a job when a team’s at the top of the league. But it’s better pressure than when you’re in a job at the bottom of the league, believe me.
“I’m not saying we will go to Aberdeen and win 4-0. We are in a great situation. I can’t emphasise that enough. The lads have been fantastic, and responded to what I’ve said.”
But he knows he’ll get pelters from the Dons fans. He said: “It will be a big match atmosphere, exciting for me, and I’ll be a bit nervous.
“It’s not nice, some of the chants, but that’s their decision to make.
“It’s not pleasant, though it’s part of the territory. I expect it.
“But I’ve been stopped so many times in the street – even by Hibs supporters – wishing me well, and I’ve had so many cards and emails from big, big people in football.
“All I want on the day is a good performance and a good result.
“We’ve worked hard over the last few days. We’ve worked on a few things but I’m not going to say what they are.
“If we win, it doesn’t mean we’ll win the league. If we lose, it doesn’t mean we’ve lost the title either.”
Another thing he won’t be drawn on is who could come in above him as director of football.
But, perhaps only half joking, he said: “When we do get one, I won’t be doing any interviews, that’s for sure.”
Breaking his silence on how he got the job, Rix said: “I was just trying to get back in the game. I’d applied for too many jobs to remember, a couple of dozen, there were so many.
“Remember, I left Oxford a year ago.
“I would go for jobs, not get them, and wonder – with all due respect – why I didn’t get them. It wasn’t my CV. I wasn’t being given a chance, or that’s the impression I got.
“People were looking past the football. That’s why I’m so pleased Mr Romanov has given me this chance – and I’ll try my hardest.”
He revealed that, despite the language barrier, he managed to bag one of the biggest jobs in the game in under an hour.
Rix said: “I was scouting for Wolves, part-time midweek and on the weekends, basically looking for a way to get back into football.
“I put my CV in like I did for many jobs and I got a call from Roman and went to meet his father.
“It was a very nice hotel in the centre of London, I went up to his suite and literally spoke for 45 minutes maybe, an hour at most.
“It was the first time I had met him. It was a bit surreal, he doesn’t speak much English so there was an interpreter in the room.
“But I got the impression he trusted me, which in our business is a big thing.”
He gave a full and frank disclosure about the difficulties in his past, about the press which followed, and the affect it had on his glittering career.
But it was down to football and his ambitions, which impressed the Lithuanian as much as his willingness to lay his soul bare.
He said: “I’m an honest guy, so when he was asking me things I was giving honest answers. I wasn’t trying to pull the wool over his eyes and I think he appreciated that. We talked about everything. His ideas on where he wanted to go with Hearts, my ambitions on where I want to go with football.
“There is still a lot of unfinished business as far as I am concerned, a lot of ambition for me to fulfill.
“And, without conversing with each other, we had a bond.”
That was it. The Romanovs offered him the post that Thursday evening.
Rix had no idea things would move so quickly – and almost fell over grinning when he was offered the gig.
He said: “I phoned my missus and told her I’d got the job. Can you imagine? She could not believe it, couldn’t believe it. She was chuffed for me. Delighted.
“The family are just so chuffed. I’m a football man, and without blowing my own trumpet, I think I’ve got something to offer. With me not being in the game, well, I felt it was a waste. Even if I was taking a pub team or something, at least I could be passing a bit of something I’ve learned on.
“I flew up on the Saturday morning, sneaked into the ground. A few people saw us. After the game I was buzzing. And that was it. The club announced it the following week.”
It was there that Rix knew he would have to face questions about his past – when all he wanted was to look forward.
He said: “Lots of people said to me after the press conference that I looked calm, cool and handled myself well.
“But my insides were going like the clappers.
“I knew it would be a tough press call with tough questions. And I was nervous. But I’ve had so much support since then.”