IN his interview with the club’s in-house TV station, Hearts managing director David Southern has said that John McGlynn was probably a victim of the club’s success.
The fact is the former manager was also a victim of circumstance and, perhaps, most pertinently, a victim of others’ achievements.
Football is a results business but few who have seen McGlynn weighed down by everything this term has thrown at him will not have had some degree of sympathy for him. Even by the club’s own barometer, this has been a trying season.
Deferred wages, winding up orders, share issues and budget constraints were compounded by talks of a takeover, financial uncertainty regarding the club’s bank and signing embargoes. Not to mention long-term injuries to key personnel. Through it all, McGlynn tried to remain stoic but he found it increasingly difficult to get the fans, the players and, ultimately, the board to believe in him.
Appointed successor to Scottish Cup-winning manager Paulo Sergio in July, the former Raith Rovers man was familiar with the club, having served his coaching apprenticeship with the club at youth and first-team level. He had also enjoyed a successful spell as caretaker boss in 2005, unbeaten in his four games at the helm, winning three and drawing one.
That ratio of success could not be recaptured, though, and after the club suffered a 2-0 defeat to League Cup final opponents St Mirren on Wednesday night, leaving them second bottom of the SPL, nine points adrift of a place in the top six and their city rivals Hibs, the board decided that new blood was needed. Their representatives met with the manager yesterday morning and it was announced that McGlynn would leave the club by mutual consent.
While there have been highlights, including a draw with Liverpool at Anfield in the Europa League, and progression to the club’s second successive major domestic final at Hampden on 17 March, they have become increasingly overshadowed by the failure to offer a staunch defence of the Scottish Cup, losing to Hibs in their first match of this season’s competition, and the failure to gain a proper foothold in the SPL.
With 28 games played, the Gorgie side have won just seven, drawing nine and losing 12, giving McGlynn one of the worst records of any Hearts manager. But none of his predecessors have had to operate within the same constraints or burdened by the same level of off field issues.
Having had to contend with the late payment of wages earlier in the season, it was in November that McGlynn and several of his coaching staff and senior players agreed to defer wages after HMRC had threatened the club with a winding up order and director Sergejus Fedotovas claimed the match against St Mirren in the middle of that month could be the club’s last. McGlynn also backed the share issue which would help see the club through to the end of the campaign.
But, while fans were grateful for his cool-headed approach to such traumas, and Southern acknowledged that he had been an “ambassador” for the club, they were less impressed with his dealings when it came to team matters.
Well warned when he took the reins that the playing budget had been slashed, with star performers from the previous campaign moving on, he was unable to wheel and deal on the transfer market to plug the gaps. The club was going down the route of promoting their own youth players to fill the gaps and McGlynn started the season with a couple of teenagers in his starting XI. In recent weeks he has been even more heavily reliant on kids, in part due to the signing sanctions imposed on the club which meant he couldn’t bring in a couple of older heads in the January transfer window, settling instead for loan deals with Liverpool for Danny Wilson and Michael Ngoo.
Long-term injuries to the likes of Jamie Hamill, Danny Grainger and Marius Zaliukas have had an effect, as did the departure of Ryan McGowan and, to a degree, Andy Driver, with competition far from fierce for starting positions. The absence of experience in the side has been a hindrance but could no longer be used as an excuse, according to the club’s hierarchy and an increasingly disgruntled fanbase. Not when others were succeeding despite even greater restrictions.
They feel there is still enough talent at the club to merit a higher league ranking. The budget is still the second highest in the SPL, while Hearts are not the only club to have a decidedly baby-faced look to their line-up.
According to stats, while players aged 21 or under account for 29 per cent of Hearts’ game time this season, at Inverness Caledonian Thistle that tally is 32 per cent. The fact Terry Butcher’s budget is also less than a third of the capital side’s undermined McGlynn, given that the Highland side sit 12 points and eight places ahead of the them, battling for second place in the league. They beat Inverness to get to the final of the League Cup but even the prospect of another cup triumph couldn’t sate those in charge. “As a club we are used to winning trophies and challenging for silverware and that that brings additional pressure and responsibilities,” said Southern. But it’s not all that is expected of a Hearts manager. They need to be at the top end of the table, they need getting results that reflect the size of the support and its ambitions, not the shambolic nature of everything that goes on day-to-day behind the scenes. McGlynn is a Hearts man, through and through, so he knew that as well as anyone.