PAULO SERGIO’S stay at Hearts was a brief one but long enough to write his name into Gorgie folklore as the manager when Hibs were hammered in the 2012 Scottish Cup final.
It is an occasion the Portuguese boss admits will live long in the memory, with recollections of that 5-1 triumph flooding back this week in the build-up to Sunday’s final against Celtic.
The 52-year-old, now in charge of Primeira Liga strugglers Portimonense in the Algarve, chatted with the media ahead of the game and reckons his old side have what it takes to get their hands back on the trophy at Hampden this weekend.
Paulo on 2012
“It was one of the best moments of my sports career. It was a great, great, great pleasure.
“I have enormous feeling for this football club. I feel part of the family. I am a supporter now. I am just thinking about a good win on December 20.
“But the memories are fantastic. For the rest of our lives we keep in touch with some players, with Lockey [Gary Locke] and people around Edinburgh. It is great. I am very proud of it.
“More than that, the way I felt about a Portuguese club when I was young is the same way I feel about Hearts. Every day I am following what’s happening.
“To be honest, my memories today are not totally on the game [in 2012]. They are more in the way we prepared that day and all the details.
“Also, I had about 14 or 15 people in my house who had travelled from Portugal, family, friends who I invited to go there.
“But the biggest impact on me was feeling after the game the happiness of the people. I stayed one more week in Edinburgh and everything we lived in that week was great.
“People were amazed with the result. It is more about this. The game was too fast.”
Paulo on his Hearts exit just days after 2012 final
“We met on the Monday or Tuesday to speak. After the meeting it was very disappointing what was happening.
“There were all the problems and I felt like I was betrayed because I didn’t look for anything for my future. I wanted to stay and we were having the conversations about that.
“I was not demanding much more money. I would have stayed in the same contract.
“But in that moment, when they proposed me half of what was my salary, I was very disappointed and I couldn’t accept that.
“That moment was very sad.”
Paulo on relegation
“Last season, it was a pity about the results but in my opinion it was a shame to relegate a club like Hearts.
“They are a very important club for Scottish football and to see them treated like that it was unfair not to let them finish the season and to relegate them instead with games to play.
“It was a huge punch in the stomach for a club that has built itself back up from financial problems.
“I think it was a political decision by clubs in the second division [Championship] and it was totally unfair.
“But this is the reality and they are dealing with it by winning every week and I am sure they will return to the Premiership next season. It is where Hearts belong.”
Paulo on the passing of Marius Zaliukas
“Marius was a fantastic player for us. But he was also a special guy, the kind of person who really touches you.
“He was a fantastic man, our captain. Every day he had a fantastic spirit in training.
“He was like a clown, always having a joke. Everyone laughed with him and he was a fantastic mate in the dressing room.
“Sometimes people thought, ‘oh Marius is the friend of Vladimir Romanov – he’s here not for the good things’.
“When you arrive, you hear this and that. But every day he proved the opposite. He was one of us. And, as players, we all trusted him a lot.
“I only have great things to speak about him and I didn’t know that he had this problem. It took me completely by surprise.
“It was very difficult to hear this news that he’d passed away.
“Immediately I spoke to a few players, also to Gary Locke, just to talk about it. It was a bad, bad, bad moment.
Paulo on missing fans for the final
“I think it’s a disappointment not to have fans at a final like this. And I really believe that, if the people in charge wanted it, they could find solutions.
“They could have 5,000 or 6,000 fans at Hampden. That would not be a problem.
“An important game like this without fans is not the same. It’s like eating without salt and pepper.
“The fans are really, really important for us in football.”
Paulo on the first goal on Sunday
“I dream that Jamie Walker scores the first goal for Hearts on Sunday. I don’t know why!
“Hearts have experienced players and boys who can score in any game. Steven Naismith can score goals.
“One player who, for me, represents the Hearts spirit is Michael Smith. In important moments Smith will appear and make something special happen.
“But I will stick with this feeling I have about Jamie Walker.
“It’s important for him – he is a Hearts man born and bred. A fan of Hearts and born in the club. I pray for him to be very happy on Sunday.”
• Paulo Sergio was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.