Sergio upbeat on Hearts future
Manager Paulo Sergio believes the short and long-term future is bright for Hearts as the Edinburgh club continues to battle financial problems.
Hearts paid their first-team squad and coaching staff their March wages on Wednesday, which had been due on March 16, as salaries were delayed significantly for a fourth time this season.
Sergio, whose own future is still to be clarified, said: "The Hearts board and directors are serious people. They are fighting. Life is not easy in this moment all over the world.
"We are getting paid with a delay. It's a pity we can't get paid in the right moment, because they're finding the money not in the right moment.
"That doesn't help, but we have to believe that people are working hard to live a normal situation.
"I believe that's going to happen in the future, that's going to happen next season.
"People are working hard to put things in place."
There was a glimpse of the future last week against St Johnstone, with injuries forcing the promotion to the first-team ranks of a number of younger players, who could yet come further to the fore next term with cost-cutting measures likely to be implemented this summer.
Among them was goalkeeper Mark Ridgers, who came on as a half-time substitute after Jamie MacDonald left the action due to a hip injury.
MacDonald is to be assessed ahead of Saturday's Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Aberdeen as Hearts go in search of the point which will almost certainly secure their place in the top half of the table at the imminent split.
But Scotland Under-21 international Ridgers could start if MacDonald fails to prove his fitness, with no sign of an end to impasse over Marian Kello, who is out of contract at the end of the season and has been in dispute with the Hearts board.
"I think it's going to be okay," Sergio said of the goalkeeper situation.
Strikers Craig Beattie (heel) and Stephen Elliott (hip) and midfielders Ian Black (hernia) and Mehdi Taouil (back) were also absent from the Perth clash.
Sergio had a similar complaint to Beattie while he was a player in his native Portugal and believes the only cure is rest - a luxury Hearts do not have with the SPL campaign and a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final to come.
"Your heel you use to walk, to drive, to do everything," Sergio added.
"To be completely healed he needs a long period. Now we need to manage that."
Midfielder Jason Holt made an impression on his maiden first-team start and scored in the 2-1 loss at Hearts, but Sergio believes more young talent is at his disposal and it is down to them to prove they can feature regularly next season.
Sergio added: "There are a few others that after a long season like this that deserve to have that chance to play too. Like Denis Prychynenko, Jordan Morton, others. I believe they have the quality.
"I will try to give them that chance (before the end of the season). It's up to them to show if they are strong enough, good enough to be part of that future."
Sergio is eager for Hearts to finish the season strongly, once the top-six place is secure.
He added: "After January, achieving the top six first was our target. That doesn't mean that we don't have ambition.
"If we can be fifth, we don't want to be sixth. If we can be fourth, we don't want to be fifth.
"Each game is going to be hard but we're going to be ready to fight for the points in each one.
"This is a tight league. In each game everybody can beat everybody.
"We need to be very focused and work a lot to beat Aberdeen."