So who is Csaba Laszlo? Below I will take a quick look at his history as a player, but mostly as a coach and manager and assess if he could be the man to take Hearts back to where they should be.
Forced to retire from playing football at the age of 27 due to a knee injury, Romanian-born Hungarian Csaba Laszlo decided to extend his football career by trying his hand at coaching. After a short spell out of the game, Laszlo coached at BW Kerpen and Tus Grevenbroich before becoming youth coach at Borussia Monchengladbach in 1999.
In 2004 Laszlo became Lothar Matthaus’ assistant for the Hungarian national side and later on that year triumphed over Scotland with a 3-0 win at Hampden. Laszlo then took over as head coach of Hungarian side Ferencvaros, while retaining his assistant position of the national side. He led Ferencvaros to the group stages of the UEFA Cup where they managed a 1-1 draw with Feyenoord and to defeat his new club Hearts 1-0 at Murrayfield.
Laszlo was awarded the Hungarian Trainer of the Year in 2005 but then left Ferencvaros due to financial difficulties; he then spent a short time at FC Sopron, another Hungarian club team before becoming head coach of Uganda in 2006.
Dubbed the ˜Miracle Man’ in Uganda, Laszlo improved the team’s UEFA world ranking from 167th to 91st during his time in charge and narrowly missed out on the recent African Cup of Nations. Laszlo also managed to beat fierce rivals Nigeria for the first time in the team’s history.
During his time as youth coach of Monchengladbach, Laszlo was responsible for the emergence of such talent as Marcell Jansen, now at Bayern Munich and a regular German international, and Eugen Polanski, a Polish-born Germany under-21 international currently at Spanish outfit Getafe. If he is to be successful at Hearts, developing youth players is something Laszlo may be required to implement. Since Romanov took over in 2004 Hearts have spent money to bring some top youth players from all over Europe. Players like Romanian midfielder Dumitru Copil and Bulgarian striker Branimir Kostadinov came highly recommended but have not progressed as much as some would have wished.
Copil has had a troubled time at the club with some of the coaching staff expressing their concern about his attitude. He went AWOL towards the end of last year claiming to be homesick. Maybe Laszlo, who was born in Romania, can help the youngster settle into life in Edinburgh and develop both him and Kostadinov into first team players.
Other youngsters at the club have already progressed to the first team, or the fringes of the first team, and hopefully Laszlo will be able to get the best out of these guys also. Lee Wallace, now 20 and already established as a first team squad member, will have the chance to make the left back spot his own with Jose Goncalves joining Nuremberg on loan for the season. Gary Glen broke in to the first team towards the end of last season, partly because there were so little other options, and managed to grab himself two goals in four appearances. Hearts shouldn’t be relying on the young striker to bag 20 goals next season but hopefully he will get enough chances in the side to gain some more first team experience.
Fringe players who found themselves on the bench towards the end of last season such as Australian defender/midfielder Ryan McGowan and Slovenian defender Matej Rapnik may not get too many chances next season, depending on who the club signs but they definitely have the talent to be first team regulars in the future and Laszlo will need to use his experience to aid their development.
When unveiled as the new Hearts boss, Laszlo emphasised that hard work and togetherness were a big part of his methods of management, two things lacking at times last season. He also stressed the importance of discipline, something else Hearts lacked last season.
When I first heard this I wasn’t sure if he was being told what to say or not. Togetherness, hard work and discipline are three things Hearts have lacked over the past two years. Supposed splits in the dressing room, certain players not pulling their weight, and a disciplinary record, including three red cards in one match at the beginning of the year, which has earned the club two fines in the previous two seasons
Call me cynical but for an Eastern European manager, who probably didn’t know a great deal about Hearts before joining, to say on his first day that his methods involved exactly what the club is lacking I found strange. This is either a coincidence or Romanov has picked a man that fits this description, as this is what the club needed. But if we are to believe newspaper reports then Laszlo may have been Romanov’s second, third, fourth, or maybe even fifth choice. Who knows?
Nevertheless, Hearts need a disciplinarian. Our record over the last two seasons isn’t good but it is not just the red and yellow cards that have caused problems. Petulant fouls in dangerous areas have cost us. This is something caretaker manager Stephen Frail pointed out during his spell in charge but failed to do anything about. Now it is up to Laszlo.
Furthermore, players like Michael Stewart need to calm down a bit more if they want to get the best out of their ability. Stewart looks as though he has the quality to be a vital part of the Hearts team but he runs about like a headless chicken sometimes and gets far too many bookings. He was sent off in a match against Dundee United last season for two bookable offences. The first was for a poor challenge, fair enough, but the second came when he got into an argument with a Hearts supporter in the stand, something he should be professional enough to ensure never happens.
Hard work was also mentioned at Laszlo’s press conference. Players such as Christian Nade faced criticism from some for his apparent lack of it. When he arrived at the club last season we were told he was short of matches and was unable to play a full 90 minutes. Although he was setback by a couple of injuries during last season I still feel that he could have improved his fitness a bit more. No one really doubts his talent and if Laszlo is true to his word then we should see the best of the Frenchman this season.
On paper this looks like a good appointment for Hearts, just what they needed. In practice however, as we have seen since the arrival of Vladimir Romanov in 2004, anything can happen at Tynecastle. Hopefully Laszlo, Hearts’ eighth manager since Romanov’s emergence, is the man to finally turn things around at the club and get them back to where they should be: getting as close to Rangers and Celtic as possible and challenging for cups.