Austin MacPhee knows what Hearts are looking for and if he can find a way to deliver that at Kilmarnock today, he believes it will strengthen the case to hand him the managerial role on a permanent basis.
“Hearts want to hire someone who plays attacking football, wins games and scores goals, let’s be honest,” said the interim boss as he plotted how to build on the recent victory over St Mirren. “We did that in the last game, so it surely can’t have damaged my chances.
“Do you think that winning well, playing well, playing exciting football increases my chances of the job? I agree with you.”
Not disguising his interest in the promotion, MacPhee appears to have bought himself some time to impress further and while he has not had a formal interview and remains unsure if he will be invited to attend one, every training session and match performance is an audition.
“I speak to Ann [Budge, the club chairman] pretty much on a daily basis. She’s known me for the best part of three years and she will make an assessment on where my skills are best used within Hearts at some point. I don’t think she’s in a rush to do this, in particular on the back of the performance against St Mirren and the attacking nature of the performance. And the Hearts supporters being behind the team who put that performance in.
“I don’t give it too much thought. All I’m thinking about is: ‘Are the players clear about what we want to do? Are the players confident? Are they sharp? And, will I pick the right players to put in the performance I want at Kilmarnock?’ That is the best way to put my best foot forward.”
The win in the last match edged the Tynecastle side up the table but against a Killie team placed higher than them and enjoying home advantage, the task at Rugby Park will be more challenging. A victory could also be more rewarding, as the board weigh up the managerial candidates.
Keen to point out that fairness dictates that his tenure as assistant to Ian Cathro and Craig Levein should not be given greater credence than the success enjoyed by Northern Ireland while he has been assisting Michael O’Neill, he says he is ready to prove he is his own man.
“You can only judge somebody on the role they’re asked to do. When I’ve been asked to do this role, the results speak for themselves,” said MacPhee, pictured, who hopes to give Craig Halkett game time following his return from injury. “I thought the performance [against St Mirren] spoke for itself. For the team to become so offensive within four training sessions says a lot about the players and their buy-in.”