When you have a barren spell and then go out of the Scottish Cup to your local rivals, it’s only natural that you’ll come under a bit pressure, as Hearts and John McGlynn have found lately, but the way football is, one result can change things for you either way, and the manager and his players have got to now make sure that Saturday’s win over Aberdeen is the one that turns the tide for them.
It’s a massive win when you see how tight the league is. We’re now only six points behind Hibs who are having their best season in years, so if we can now go and beat a good St Johnstone side on Saturday, then it sets us up nicely for the busy festive period.
While defending his team selections last week, John spoke about how the whole club play 4-3-3 right through the ranks, but, no disrespect, I’m not really bothered what formation the kids at the club are playing. It’s all about what system the first-team are best suited to and what gets results. Yes, there are different systems which need to be utilised at different times, but you don’t let the system you use in the youth ranks dictate what way the first team play. Different groups of players suit different systems, so it should be about fitting players into the formation that suits them best, not having a system that is set in stone.
There’s no doubt there was a more solid, experienced look through the spine of the team with John Sutton back in to lead the attack and Darren Barr back patrolling midfield after being sorely missed in the closing stages of the Edinburgh derby the week before.
The one player that I would have to pay tribute to is Gordon Smith. A couple of summers ago Gordon came down to Meadowbank for some conditioning training and his attitude was superb. He’s shown a real degree of patience over the past few months and, when he finally got his chance on Saturday, he showed the same attitude on the pitch that he did that summer. Hopefully he can continue to show that attitude because football is not just about ability. It’s about having the right attitude and being physically in the right condition to take your chance when it comes along. I remember speaking to Roddy Grant, who worked with Gordon when he had him on loan at Stirling Albion a few seasons ago, and he raved about his attitude.
He’s had his moments in the first team over the past few years, but now he’ll be looking to get a run of games in the team in the same way as the likes of Gary Glen, Calum Elliot and now Callum Paterson have been afforded. Only then can you judge if Gordon is able to cut the mustard at SPL level.
Ryan Stevenson had a big contribution and Paterson came on and had an impact off the bench, which is sometimes the best way for young players. It must be remembered that Callum is a good two years younger than most of the other young boys coming into the first team, but because he’s a physically strong boy with pace, I think John has used him more than any other youngster this season. The big part for the manager is to know when to pull a young player out and treat him with kid gloves, and maybe John was a week or two late in pulling Callum out of the firing line. Nonetheless, he made the decision to do it on Saturday and it paid off spectacularly as the players that started did the business before Callum came off the bench to have a big impact.
We’ve now seen that Sutton and Smith can play together and we’ve already seen that Paterson and Stevenson can do a job in attack when required, so we’re maybe not as badly off in that department as we originally thought. It’s maybe just a case of finding out what suits the players best.