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Nov 24, 2006

Hearts coach Ivanauskas makes mysterious return

Heart of Midlothian's missing head coach Valdas Ivanauskas is to resume his role at the club on Monday.

The Lithuanian returned to his homeland last month on stress-related sick leave amid uncertainty over whether he would be back.

Ivanauskas flew back into Edinburgh today accompanied by controversial Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov, to the surprise of many supporters.

No announcement had been made regarding his return, and the majority of supporters and pundits believed his time at the club was over, given Romanov's well known proclivity for changing management staff.

He will watch Hearts in their SPL clash at Inverness tomorrow before resuming his role next week.

Ivanauskas told the Hearts World: 'It was long, but it was also a short time but I needed this rest because it was very hard and now I feel very good.

'I start on Monday with the team. My problems are my problems, but now I feel good and ready.'

Hearts have struggled to replicate their winning form from last season, which saw them take the Scottish Cup and finish second in the league.

This season has seem them crash out of both the Champions League and UEFA Cup, and last Sunday's 1-0 home defeat to Rangers has seen them slump to fifth in the league.

Since Ivanauskas left a period of turmoil has rocked the club, unprecedented even during the turbulent Romanov era.

In the days after Ivanauskas' departure, club captain Steven Pressley revealed 'significant unrest' in the dressing room and hit out at the way the club was being run.

Eduard Malofeev, the former Soviet Union coach, stepped in for Ivanauskas but has failed to win a match in five games.

Pressley was omitted for the draw at Falkirk amid reports of a plot to oust him as captain and the Scotland player was on the bench for last Sunday's game.

Hearts also announced Malofeev was leaving to update his coaching qualifications with current Kaunas coach Eugenijus Riabovas taking the reins.

But Riabovas failed to show as expected on Monday and Hearts refused to comment on their coaching plans until this afternoon.

Ivanauskas had a brief meeting with the players at the teams training complex today before the squad departed for Inverness.

Ivanauskas said: 'I wished them good luck for tomorrow's game and said to them that we need points, fight and that it will be a hard game in Inverness.

'Tomorrow I think we will be ready.

'Our priority is the next game.

'Our situation is not good, but I think it has been a learning time.

'Tomorrow we need three points and after tomorrow's game we will see what the situation is. Our situation needs points.

'I think the first thing is that we need one win because psychologically it is very important because I think if we win games it will be a better situation in the table and the training pitch.'