GARY Glen, Hearts' teenage striker, has revealed how being ditched from the first team in the opening months of Csaba Laszlo's reign forced him to rethink his attitude to prove he is good enough to blossom in the SPL.
The 18-year-old appeared to have the world at his feet towards the end of last season, making an immediate impact on the Hearts team under Stevie Frail and quickly earning a new four-year deal until 2012.
Success, however, went quickly to the Livingston-born youngster's head, with Laszlo feeling he had a "big-time" attitude and a lack of focus when he arrived to assume control last summer. The Hungarian promptly left him out, preferring Christian Nade in a lone striking role and letting Glen lick his wounds in the reserves.
It was only in late December when Glen claimed a first substitute opportunity under Laszlo, as the forward's greater work ethic and dedication in training slowly won over his manager. Since then, Glen's contribution has been impressive, netting a decisive goal off the bench in the Homecoming Scottish Cup win at city rivals Hibs and starting the club's last two games.
Laszlo, already renowned for his man-management, appears to have revitalised the marksman and he has every intention to cement his place.
Ahead of today's visit of St Mirren, Glen said: "Basically, when the manager first came I knew it wasn't going to be easy and I had to prove myself. But I was disappointed, obviously, because I wasn't getting involved as much as I'd have liked to.
"My head dropped a wee bit. I never expected to be playing, but I thought I might have had a wee run now and again, like coming on as a substitute, but it never happened. I just had to put my head down and work really hard. I had to prove myself in the reserves and come back in.
"The gaffer's now given me the chance and I've got to try and take that. He's good at telling me out how to play and my development is important as a young player. He's said he'll help my game and I believe he will. I feel I can score goals. I've done it at youth level, so I've got to prove I can do it at a higher level."
Hearts have climbed to third spot in the SPL thanks to an overall team solidity. Goals have not flowed as often as Laszlo would have liked, not helped by a persistent injury to Mike Tullberg. Graham Barrett, the freed former Falkirk forward, could join the striking ranks, but Glen knows he has a golden chance if he can aid the club's quest for Europe.
He added: "It's really vital for me right now, because we are struggling for strikers. The gaffer is looking to bring one in, but at the moment we've not got that and I've got to try and prove I can be that striker and hopefully cement my spot to play every week.
"He doesn't see me as a lone striker because I'm not physical, but I like playing his formation, in behind Christian and getting the ball more. But I've also been doing extra work when everyone finishes training, doing a few weights and working with the fitness coaches."
Glen also believes Hearts could be helped by St Mirren playing Motherwell in the Homecoming Scottish Cup on Thursday night. "A win would be brilliant this Saturday. We've got a great opportunity against St Mirren and we've got to try to take that. We've got a little bit of an advantage with them playing on Thursday night. Hopefully they'll be tired and we can get the result.
"It's great we're in third place. We've got Dundee United coming up away next weekend and getting a win then would put us in great shape for getting third place."
MacPherson says Ogilvie agrees new rule is required
ST MIRREN manager Gus MacPherson hopes the elation of their Homecoming Scottish Cup triumph over Motherwell will carry them through the physical challenge of today's clash with Hearts.
Less than 42 hours after Billy Mehmet's solitary strike set up a quarter-final clash with Celtic, Saints will line up at Tynecastle on Clydesdale Bank Premier League duty.
Hearts refused St Mirren's request for the game to be played tomorrow after their cup replay was moved for satellite television broadcast.
"It's certainly easier going into the game because you have won," MacPherson said. "Spirit is not a problem in the dressing room, but I certainly much prefer going into this game on the back of a victory.
"We have just got to keep playing in the manner in which we have. You enjoy the win for maybe half an hour, but then you are switching back into preparations for Saturday's game against Hearts.
"We have left that to the medical department and the sports scientists. The players were in this morning having a recovery session in the swimming pool. That's really all you can do when the games are so close together.
"We'll make one or two changes just to freshen things up. That's inevitable; it's no slight on the performance we had on Thursday. But we look forward to going to Tynecastle because it's a fantastic venue."
MacPherson has called for a rule to be put in place to ensure there is no repeat of Saints' plight. And he has an unlikely ally in the shape of Hearts managing director Campbell Ogilvie, who turned down St Mirren's request so Hearts fans and sponsors would not be inconvenienced.
MacPherson said: "To take the awkwardness out of it, you must have a ruling place now; that for any reason a game is played on a Thursday, the following league game should be played on a Sunday.
"It was Campbell Ogilvie who suggested it to me. He is on quite a few committees and is a very well respected administrator in football. It's common sense. I can understand why Hearts don't want to move it, but I think for football it's better to move it."