I’m absolutely gutted at the way things have panned out for John McGlynn since he landed his dream job at Hearts last summer.
The current league position was obviously a factor in his exit yesterday, but I think the club, wary of the financial situation, have obviously had their hand forced by the fear that crowds would start to fall as a result of the unrest among the support. They will be aware that, in changing the manager, they will probably draw bigger crowds for the upcoming home games as many fans felt change was needed.
No-one will ever hear me say a bad word about John, however. You can disagree with his team selection, or the fact he didn’t play 4-4-2, but that’s all down to personal opinion – just because his views differed to those of many fans doesn’t mean he’s a bad manager. Ultimately, the one thing I know about John is that he went about his business with honesty and integrity. If we have others at the club who show the same honesty and integrity as John did, this club will improve. He’ll always have my respect, that’s for sure.
People talk about him bringing a lack of inspiration, being tactically inept or out of his depth, and they’re entitled to that opinion, but for me that’s nonsense. The main problem he had was the change that the football club is going through at the moment. He was just the unfortunate soul who carried the can as results inevitably nosedived.
To come in when a team is struggling is always far easier for a manager, because the only way is up, as they say. But to come in and replace Paulo Sergio on the back of what happened last May was always going to be an absolutely massive challenge for anyone, even if they had been able to retain the entire squad from last season, never mind a squad which has been totally decimated.
John’s critics argue we should be higher in the league than second bottom but, as much as it pains me to say it, I disagree. Our league position right now is entirely in keeping with the turmoil that has afflicted Hearts ever since we won the Scottish Cup last May.
In the circumstances, for John to reach a cup final was an amazing achievement in itself. It’ll be a huge disappointment for him that he hasn’t at least been given the chance to take the team for the final. I remember how I felt when Hearts finally won the Scottish Cup shortly after I left the club. I was delighted but there was also a touch of envy and I’m sure it would be even worse for a manager to see the team he led all the way to a final win the cup without him. If we do indeed go on to win it, I’m sure I won’t be the only one who’ll have a thought for John.
What happens next for Hearts is anybody’s guess. I have a problem straight away with two people sharing interim duties. Even on a caretaker basis, I feel you need to have a clear designated manager. The players have to have a clear knowledge of who the manager is. I remember in the 1980s, when I played under Alex MacDonald and Sandy Jardine, we all knew exactly who was the manager and who was the assistant. The only time things didn’t go quite as well under those two was the period when they became joint managers. For me, you need to know exactly who the figurehead of the team is. What happens if Gary Locke and Darren Murray disagree on something? Who has the final say?
Having said that, on a personal level, I’m absolutely delighted for Lockie to get his chance. If I had anything to do with the decision-making at Hearts, I would have made Gary Locke the manager and Andy Webster his assistant for the time being, with Darren Murray left to continue the good job he is doing as player development manager.
In terms of appointing a permanent manager, the club say they are looking for someone who has a proven track record of bringing young players through. If you’re looking in Edinburgh football for people that fit the bill, there are two people that jump off the page. One is Sandy Clark, who did a top-class job of bringing through a number of young players at Hearts who went on to have good, solid careers.
The other is Donald Park, who did likewise at Hibs. If that’s the route Hearts are intent on going down, then those are the calibre of people you want to be looking at. The problem when going down that route is that being a specialist at nurturing youngsters through the youth ranks towards the first team is a totally separate job to actually managing youngsters in the first team, so it’s hard to pinpoint someone who would be ideally suited in that regard.