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Disillusioned Hartley wants Tynecastle summit

Hearts star Paul Hartley has called for clear-the-air talks between the players and majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.

The Gorgie outfit has plunged into crisis as both fans and players become increasingly disillusioned with the way the Lithuanian businessman is running the club.

Hartley and goalkeeper Craig Gordon stood shoulder to shoulder with captain Steven Pressley last month as he revealed 'significant unrest' at Tynecastle.

Pressley was then missing from the squad at Falkirk on Monday night amid reports of a plot to oust him as captain, before being named as an unused substitute for yesterday's 1-0 defeat to Rangers in the Bank of Scotland Premier League.

Hearts have slumped to fifth, without a win in their last seven matches.

Romanov is out of the country, but Hartley believes showdown talks are needed as soon as possible.

'The sooner everything gets sorted, the better it will be for the club,' he said.

'He will have stuff he wants to say to us. But I think it's important that everything comes out in the open, that we start to talk and we can get our feelings across.

'We all want to push in the same direction - the supporters, the players, the owner - and the only way to do that is for us to get our point across and for Mr Romanov to get his point across.

An angry mob of around 200 fans gathered outside Tynecastle to protest, chanting `Sack the board' and `Romanov must go'.

'They are entitled to their opinions,' said Hartley.

'They don't like what's going on. There are a lot of us who don't like what's going - and they have a right to protest.

'I'll give the fans one thing - they were right behind the players today from the first minute and they have been throughout this season.

'We've had difficult times here in the past, and one thing is always for sure - the supporters always back us.'

Hartley was disappointed to hear the names of his Lithuanian team-mates jeered when the teams were read out before yesterday's match.

'Nobody likes getting booed,' he said.

'I condemn that. I don't like supporters booing their own players. They have to get behind them in difficult times like this.

'We want to see the supporters getting right behind the players.'

Next up for Hearts in the SPL is Inverness, and Hartley has called for Pressley to be recalled to the top team in an attempt to bring stability back to the crisis club.

'He has been a great captain for the club, and we want our best players playing in the team,' he said.

'He's our main man and he's a fantastic leader. The sooner he gets back in the team, the better.'

Hartley was captain for the visit of Rangers but added: 'I would never want the armband.

'If Steven is injured, if he's not well then I'll take the armband because I'm the vice-captain.

'But there's only one real captain at the club - and that's Steven Pressley.'