PAULO SERGIO KEEN TO STAY

Hearts manager Paulo Sergio has confirmed his desire to remain at Tynecastle next season.

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Paulo Sergio: Out of contract at the end

Paulo Sergio: Out of contract at the end

Hearts manager Paulo Sergio has confirmed his desire to remain at Tynecastle next season, but is concerned about the future of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League as Rangers' troubles go on.

Sergio is out of contract at the end of the season, which is at a pivotal stage in the race for Europe - Hearts meet Dundee United and Motherwell in the space of four days - before a first all-Edinburgh William Hill Scottish Cup final since 1896 on May 19.

It is a remarkable achievement thus far for Hearts, given their own well-documented off-field problems, and Sergio hopes to be in charge next season after beginning discussions over his future with the capital club's hierarchy.

"I want to stay. In the right moment we will see if that's possible or not," he said.

"We are speaking about that (contract talks). I'm here every single day. I don't do anything else unless living a Hearts life.

"At the moment I just eat and sleep. I didn't come here to be on holiday. I work every single minute I can.

"I hope we can be happy in the end."

Happiness is not an emotion which can be applied to anyone at Rangers at present, particularly after this week the Scottish Football Association imposed a £160,000 fine and a 12-month embargo on signing players for bringing the game into disrepute since owner Craig Whyte's takeover last May.

Duff and Phelps, Rangers' administrators, described the punishments as "draconian" while manager Ally McCoist reacted angrily, saying they could "kill" the club.

Sergio, whose side lost 3-0 to Rangers last Saturday, was reluctant to discuss events in Glasgow, but believes the survival of the Glasgow giants is crucial for the future health of the Scottish game.

The Portuguese said: "I have a strong feeling that Rangers need at this moment every help they can get to survive.

"I believe Scottish football needs a strong Rangers.

"Sometimes if you're taking these kind of decisions, probably one of these days we won't have the SPL. If you don't protect the clubs, maybe the SPL will to disappear. You have to be careful."

Hearts have had numerous problems of their own this season, not least significant salary delays during four months, most recently in March.

Sergio praised the Hearts board, for easing the financial concerns, and also his players who sit sixth in the SPL with four games to go.

He added: "We have to give credit to our players for what they did and the way they helped our board to deal with the problems.

"We shouldn't forget achieving the semi-final and the final of the cup brings a lot of joy - and some money too.

"For my players all my congratulations. But it's not finished. They should keep playing and continue like that."

Striker Stephen Elliott (foot) is doubtful for Saturday's match with United at Tannadice, but forward Mehdi Taouil (back) is available again and Craig Beattie's heel problem has now cleared up.

Midfielder Ian Black, meanwhile, is being nursed through the closing stages of the season ahead of a likely hernia operation.

Sergio anticipates a difficult match against a United side striving to overhaul Motherwell to claim third place in the SPL.

He added: "The position they have in the league shows their quality. We know we should be at our best level to get a good result there.

"We're going to play against a very good team. We should respect them and do everything we can to get a good result there."

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