Look on the bright side

jim jefferies 6Jim Jefferies believes things are starting to come together at Tynecastle. Marius Zaliukas' contract wrangle is coming close to a conclusion and Rudi Skacel coming close to returning to his best form means that things are looking a bit brighter for  Hearts. Kilmarnock are the visitors on Sunday with the just the last parts of the paperwork the last stumbling block to Zaliukas staying in Edinburgh for the long term.  Uncertainty over Lithuania international Zaliukas' future meant he was unavailable for selection, but Hearts now have two wins and two clean sheets since his return and new terms have been agreed.  Jefferies said: "It's all been verbally agreed. I don't know where it's being held up but we're of the opinion that the paperwork will all be tied up. He's here, he's committed to the club and we don't see any problem. We don't know what's holding it up, but he's been available for me the last two games and he'll be available for me on Sunday and hopefully for the next couple of years, whatever the length of contract is that he's signed."

Jefferies described Zaliukas as "immense" in last weekend's 3-0 win over St Mirren, achieved courtesy of a hat-trick from Skacel. There were suggestions Skacel's capture was at Romanov's behest, rather than Jefferies' request, but the manager is now thrilled to have Skacel - a Scottish Cup winner in 2006 - in his squad. Jefferies praised Skacel's work ethic - the midfielder did extra training sessions to achieve match fitness after signing at the end of September - and believes his experience can benefit not just his younger team-mates, but also help him add to his five international caps. The Tynecastle manager said: "It wasn't a case of we didn't want him, our priorities lay in a different area, but we were quite happy to have him. Everybody was saying 'will he get back to his best?' - he's certainly on the road to doing that. He's got a determination about him to get into the Czech Republic squad".

Jefferies also provided an opinion on the controversy over officials which rumbled on from the games between Dundee United and Celtic, through last weekend's game at Parkhead and has resulted in the resignation of assistant referee Steven Craven. While Jefferies in no way condones threats - such as those issued to Old Firm referee Willie Collum - he insists officials must have a thicker skin. Jefferies said: "They have to accept that criticism is part and parcel of the game, the industry we work in - I get criticised, so do players. They've just got to dust themselves down, take it on the chin and get on with the job. There's a guy I've come across a few times, a great lad. I hope somebody convinces him to come back into it."