JOHN McGlynn has defended his management at Hearts and stressed that he fully intends to see out the two-year deal he signed in the summer.
Questions have been asked about some of the manager’s recent decisions, which include leaving striker John Sutton on the substitutes’ bench, while youngsters such as Callum Paterson are charged with improving Hearts’ poor scoring record.
McGlynn is clearly as frustrated as anyone by the continued problems in front of goal, although the club has made a move to remedy matters. It was confirmed yesterday that Lithuanian striker Arturas Rimkevicius will arrive in Edinburgh next week to begin training and with a view to signing later this month, when Hearts’ current registration embargo ends.
Hearts cannot register players before 23 December after falling foul of the Scottish Premier League following the late payment of staff wages.
Rimkevicius was on trial at Hearts seven years ago, and made a second-half appearance in a friendly against Middlesbrough when George Burley was manager.
The striker is currently a free agent, having left FK Siauliai last month. The news should serve to brighten McGlynn’s outlook, after the Hearts manager displayed some uncharacteristic irritability yesterday.
Asked a reasonable question about John Sutton, the manager bristled at the contention that he has a “proven” striker sitting among the substitutes most weekends.
“How many goals did Sutton score last year?” he replied. “He wasn’t proven last year. How long do you want to go back?”
Sutton’s haul of only three goals last season can be explained by a move to Australia in January, while he was also used only sparingly by McGlynn’s predecessor, Paulo Sergio. But there is no doubt he can score goals and has done so even this season. His three strikes to date means he is currently the joint-second highest scorer at the club.
McGlynn does not believe he has anything to explain on that front, though he is aware of dissatisfaction among supporters. This has grown more perceptible after Hearts quickly relinquished their hold on the Scottish Cup against Hibernian last weekend, having soundly thrashed their rivals in the final in May under Sergio.
The charismatic Sergio has moved on and masterminded CFR Cluj’s Champions League victory at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Wednesday night. McGlynn, meanwhile, has been left to pick up the pieces after extreme restructuring at Tynecastle.
“I’ve got a two-year contract. I intend to see that out,” he said yesterday. “No-one puts me under any more pressure than myself. I don’t like losing. I don’t like the situation.”
“People have to realise that there is half of the staff left here and the wage bill was cut in half,” he continued. “It wasn’t a case of picking and choosing [players] – they just left.””
Sutton aside, he has been left with few options in attack. Unhelpfully, Ryan Stevenson is also enduring his worst-ever goal drought. McGlynn argues that he is working on rectifying the matter in training.
“We haven’t scored goals and I understand that, but we’re trying things and looking to the longer-term as well as the immediate future,” he explained. “If we don’t have the striker we want, can we develop one? Getting results in the immediate future is very important, but we are trying to develop a younger player into the right specimen. Goals are all that have been missing.”
Hearts have scored just once in their past four matches, and that was a penalty from Marius Zaliukas, the centre-half who also doubles as the club’s highest goalscorer in the current campaign.
As McGlynn himself noted, yesterday’s press briefing had been underway for almost ten minutes and still no-one had mentioned Aberdeen, Hearts’ opponents tomorrow afternoon. It provides a further indication of what the manager has to cope with just now. Mostly, it is everything but the football.
Against a backdrop of financial uncertainty, results have been understandably poor. Sunday’s defeat against Hibs was a particularly bitter pill to swallow. This, McGlynn accepts, “is the lowest point” of a transitional phase that has been ongoing since last year, with last week’s payment agreement with HMRC over tax and National Insurance contributions providing only temporary respite, rather than on-going relief.
It is, though, a positive step in the right direction and leaves McGlynn with some more room to negotiate with players who might otherwise have viewed Hearts as a sinking ship.
McGlynn accepts that there will likely be further departures in January, so he has kept his eyes open for potential low-cost replacements. Director Sergejus Fedotovas has prepared the way for more belt-tightening, judging from comments made earlier this week.
McGlynn is braced for a further shrinking of resources. “If Sergejus is telling you that, then it is exactly right,” he said. “What I said after the game on Sunday was that the biggest priority is that Hearts survive, and that has to be the case.”
McGlynn sighed wistfully when asked if he yearns to simply manage, which, if you recall his appointment in the summer, was supposed to be his sole remit. Now, however, he describes himself as “fire-fighter” into the bargain.
“I thought when you get the opportunity to come to a big, big club like Hearts you would get the chance to bring in the players you want and mould the team,” he added. “Now that hasn’t happened. “There’s a lot of good players here and I have no qualms or problems with any single player at all. If we had the striker I feel we need then I think we would be sitting in a much healthier position because we are still creating plenty of chances.
“But it is amazing,” he continued. “I had more strikers at Raith Rovers than I do here.”
Little wonder, then, that he was prone to some tetchiness yesterday.