JOHN McGLYNN leans forward as his husky tones deliver a viewpoint every Hearts fan should cherish: “I don’t believe this is our last game. I think Hearts will be here for a long, long time.”
Ebullient, defiant and bullish, the manager knows the critical state of his club. He also knows the depth of feeling behind those fighting to save it.
St Mirren’s visit to Tynecastle this Saturday was billed as, potentially, Hearts’ last-ever match in a statement released by the board last week. Since then, some quite remarkable rallying has taken place in an effort to pay the £450,000 tax demanded by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs which is threatening Hearts’ very existence.
Directors, fans, former players and general do-gooders have come to order, resulting in some astonishing feats. Pubs handed over takings, fighting funds have been established, auction items donated and kids as young as 11 have emptied piggy banks and walked to Tynecastle with the contents. That togetherness props up McGlynn’s assertion that Hearts will not die.
Put simply, too many people care too much about a club which has been in existence for 138 years. “I don’t believe this is our last game. I think Hearts will be here for a long, long time. However, that doesn’t mean we’re safe,” said McGlynn, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “Everyone still needs to rally round over the next few days to bring in as much money as possible for the club. There can’t be any complacency on that side of it. We aren’t out of the woods yet.”
The Hearts players are giving out all the right messages. In fact, it could be argued they are most important in this fight for survival. McGlynn and his squad are willing to defer wages, many of them have already invested in the club’s share issue, while Saturday’s spirited revival in Inverness showed they can have an equally rallying effect on the field of play. McGlynn offers genuine praise for their efforts so far.
“The players have been fantastic, they really have. You mentioned buying shares. They’ve also been attending schools in the Lothians with the Scottish Cup for a number of weeks now. They’ve been doing much more on the public relations side of things and that will continue over the weeks ahead. There are a number of fundraising events and, if the players can help out, they will. If I can help out, then I will. I’m more than willing to do that.
“Heart of Midlothian Football Club is an institution that should be here for evermore.”
There was no shortage of inspiration in the away dressing-room at the Caledonian Stadium on Saturday. “That was our war cry: ‘Let’s fight, let’s fight, let’s fight and make sure we give everything for this club.’ Everyone else is doing their bit but we are the main people the fans look to,” continued McGlynn.
“What we do reflects an awful lot on how people feel. We want to have supporters feeling good about making a cause for Heart of Midlothian Football Club. I’m pleased how the players rallied round in the second half and put an awful lot into the game in Inverness. They gave every ounce of sweat they could give to get that 1-1 draw.
“We wanted three points because we want to win every match. When the clock’s ticking away and its getting near the end of the game, you’re very grateful to get a point. I think the players showed they are very much up for the fight. I’m very grateful that they dug in right to the death because that’s exactly what we’ve got to do in the circumstances we find ourselves.”
Established faces within the squad are galvanising the troops, however two of Hearts’ finest performers in the Highlands were the inexperienced pair of Jason Holt and Dylan McGowan. Despite being only 19, Holt’s assured midfield display showed the talent which Riccarton coaches have been waiting to see prosper at senior level. McGowan, 21, played the second half as a holding midfielder and was simply outstanding.
“You look to your usual players, like Andy Webster, Marius Zaliukas, Darren Barr and Ryan Stevenson, for inspiration. On the pitch on Saturday, I thought Jason Holt was outstanding. That’s a younger player coming in, showing no fear and letting everyone see what a good player he is. I thought Dylan McGowan did a remarkable job as well after coming on at half-time. He needs to take a massive pat on the back because he went and won balls for us, put his foot in, made tackles and passed the ball well.
“I’ve got to try and inspire these players to go and fight, and the efforts of others inspires everyone. That’s how it’s got to be. We all need to stand together, stand firm, stand up and be counted. That’s exactly what I’m looking for.”
Part of the club’s call to arms is for supporters to ensure Tynecastle is a 17,000 sellout this weekend. McGlynn’s mouth waters at the prospect. “I’ve got to stay focused on preparing the players for training and getting them prepared for the St Mirren game. I need to make sure the spirit in high in the squad and that we’re upbeat about things. We’re staying very positive and I’m very confident that we’ll run out against St Mirren on Saturday at Tynecastle in front of a full house and in a great atmosphere with everyone rallying round. That’s what I’m putting all my energies into.
“It would be a massive boost to everyone to have Tynecastle full. I know it’s different, but the European night against Liverpool will live with us all for ever. Both legs were special but the home game, with mostly our fans in the stadium, gave us the type of atmosphere we want to recreate. It is different under the floodlights in a midweek European match but if we can get something close to that atmosphere on Saturday, it would be amazing.”