TYNECASTLE might be preparing to welcome back a recent playing hero, fitness permitting.
However, Hearts manager John McGlynn yesterday preferred to place the focus firmly on the fans’ contribution to the club, in a week when it was confirmed that a share issue raised over £1 million.
This figure was reached after a late surge in interest, with £800,000 having been raised by the end of last week. Although Hearts still need to find another £800,000 to continue operating until the end of the season, maintaining the healthy number of fans attending recent home games should help income streams.
Acknowledging the proximity to Christmas and also the fact the game is being shown live on television, McGlynn yesterday appealed to supporters to turn up for tomorrow’s clash with Dundee United, which kicks off at 4.30pm.
“What the million pounds suggests is that there is a great feeling out there for Heart of Midlothian Football Club,” he said. “The supporters have been magnificent to raise that through shares.
“It has come, generally, from hard-working people who have Hearts in them. It’s not big companies or anyone else, it’s people working hard in difficult, difficult times, and they’ve managed to raise a million pounds. It’s a bit cheesy but a million thank yous to everyone who has contributed.”
McGlynn accepted that it is not yet enough to solve all Hearts’ financial problems, with the club now hit by an indefinite transfer ban after a failure to make bonus and appearance payments to players this season. “It just goes with the news that we have now, that it’s going to take even more,” he said. “So we’ve got a big game against Dundee United on Sunday and, although it’s just before Christmas, a full house at Tynecastle would go a long way towards helping the football club. We’ve sold out the home section for the Hibs game [on 3 January], so that is massive,” he added. “And half season-ticket sales are ongoing. Looking further forward, we’ve still got a [League] Cup semi-final against Inverness to come, so there is still a lot to play for. We could do with big crowds from now until the end of the season. That would help our cause again.”
In what is an apt phrase, McGlynn cannot afford to be deflected from his purpose by such issues as transfer bans. As he says himself, he was not permitted to bring anyone in during the summer in any case. The mooted return of Rudi Skacel might now be restricted to days like tomorrow, when he makes an appearance at Tynecastle wearing the colours of his current club, Dundee United. The midfielder, who has signed a short-term contract with the Tannadice side, is battling to be fit for the clash after having nine stitches inserted in a leg wound sustained after colliding with an advertising hoarding.
“I’m sure, if he’s on the park, he will be doing his best for Dundee United because they pay his wages,” said McGlynn. “Rudi will always have a special place at Tynecastle because of all he did, all the fans he’s entertained, in his two spells at the club.
“He is a legend in that way, he is a good lad and a gentleman. But for 90 minutes he’s a Dundee United player and will be one of another ten standing between us and three points.
“He could possibly be the most popular player on the park – possibly,” the manager agreed, but when asked about the plan among Hearts fans to give Skacel an ovation after 51 minutes – the player’s shirt number with United, which in turn references May’s Scottish Cup final derby win over Hibs – McGlynn said: “I’ll not be clapping! But, if that happens, that happens.”
Dundee United manager Peter Houston, meanwhile, hopes his side take out their frustration from last weekend’s draw against Inverness on Hearts when they head to Tynecastle.
The Tannadice club were cruising at 3-0 after just eight minutes of their match with Caley Thistle before they surrendered a healthy lead and needed a last-minute Jon Daly penalty to secure a share of the spoils in the 4-4 draw. Now, United are preparing to take on their Edinburgh opponents in the capital this weekend, and Houston wants his players to show a positive reaction from last Saturday’s disappointment as they bid to climb the SPL table.
Houston said: “The players were frustrated with the fact we didn’t get three points last week when we should have done. There were loads of times throughout the course of the game that we played some really good stuff and should have killed the game off.
“We’ve spoken about it and hopefully we can get the right result away to Hearts. I’d be worried if we weren’t creating chances but we certainly need to make sure we defend corner kicks better, and that’s what we’ve been working on this week with a view to this game at Tynecastle.”
United have a reasonable record at Tynecastle and Houston hopes they can keep that going in their quest to kickstart their season for real. He said: “We’ve done fairly well there in the recent past. It’s always a nice and venue to go and play football and there’s usually a good atmosphere. The fans are right on top of the pitch which can bring out the best in players.
“I’m obviously hoping our players rise to the occasion and it’s around about the turn of the year that we usually have a good run, but hopefully it starts a wee bit earlier. We’re actually in a better position points-wise than what we were this time last year. We just need to try and step things up, get on a decent run, and see where it takes us in terms of the table. We’ve been working really hard all week and if we can get a positive result it will set us well for what is always a hectic festive period.
“The games come flying at you but that’s what players like and they tend to relish it. There’s nothing in the table so a few victories can push you right up the league.”