If John McGlynn receives a text from a certain member of the playing staff at Inverness Caledonian Thistle tomorrow at 4.45pm, it’s sure to spell bad news for his old club Hearts.
The former Jambos assistant manager and caretaker boss, who spent ten years at Tynecastle, led striker Gregory Tade onto the path to becoming an SPL player but can expect little sympathy in favour of his old club from his former Raith Rovers charge.
Tade sprung onto the SPL scene for his debut in top-tier football with Inverness after trawling the Scottish Football League with Forfar, Stranraer, Clyde and Raith. After his trip to Tynecastle, he will only have a few more league grounds to scratch off his list, such has been his rise up the ranks in Scottish football.
Tade will have no capacity for sentimentality tomorrow, however, insisting he is confident of scoring on his first visit to Gorgie. And if he does, McGlynn will hear plenty about it.
“I know I can score goals, I’ve proved that to people. It wasn’t my day against Celtic last week – I didn’t shoot on target or score – but I always believe every time I go on the pitch that I’ll score. So [against Hearts] I’m sure I’m going to score,” said the 25-year-old.
“I tell you what, I’m enjoying my football way more now. I [played at a lower level] before, but I have no regrets because it had to be done to make me appreciate what I’ve got now. Obviously, now, it’s all coming together for myself.
“I’ve never played at Tynecastle before. It’s the old team of my ex-manager John McGlynn as well, so I’ll be making sure I score a goal and call him afterwards. Maybe two . . . maybe my first hat-trick!”
Tade’s goalscoring has shone a ray of light on Inverness’s plunge to the abyss of the SPL, but a new beam of optimism has been cast over the Highlanders’ squad following impressive displays against Kilmarnock a fortnight ago – in an astounding 6-3 away win – and in defeat to Celtic last week. Tade stresses that past performances mean nothing but says there will be no added pressure on his team-mates and him at Hearts tomorrow just because Inverness lie bottom of the pile.
“I don’t think there is,” said Tade. “You need to win every game, you owe it to yourself, the fans, the football club. I don’t think there is more or less pressure. It’s just hard work, and we are prepared to do that.
“Hearts are quite physical, but I think we are quite a physical team, too, so this doesn’t scare me. I thought when I stepped up to the SPL that the game would be more physical and more different but nobody has impressed me so far. Maybe Rangers, with the way they play their football, but, except for them, I haven’t been impressed with anybody.”
Inverness have won only three of their 20 meetings with Hearts, but twice they have triumphed at Tynecastle. The Jambos have had the measure of their northern adversaries in recent times, with six wins in the last nine head-to-heads, but 1-1 draws in each of the last three contests illustrate an increasing parity between the clubs.
Indeed, it took a late leveller by Stephen Elliott during the latest match between the sides to ensure Hearts did not lose their proud recent record against Inverness. Tade opened the scoring on 50 minutes at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium in early September, but his Irish opposite number scrambled a share of the spoils for the visitors.
The Frenchman’s strike was his second in as many games after he opened his Inverness account against Kilmarnock during his previous outing. Since then, he has averaged a goal every two games, with four in the eight games he has played since facing Hearts. The centre forward says his rich run of goalscoring form – and the positive form of the team as a whole – can be attributed to his team-mates increased understanding of each other’s, and his own, style of play.
“Now they know what I’m good at and what I’m not so good at,” said Tade. “We’re coming together as a real team. Confidence has never been in doubt. Now, we just have to focus on the Hearts game and getting three points, something we think we can achieve.
“It’s a new team, with new players all over the park. You need to find the right chemistry between the players. The communication needs to be good between team-mates. I used to say to Greg Tansey, “I don’t like runners – I like them to stand.” It’s ridiculous, small things, but at Kilmarnock [being able to understand each other] worked very well. Now, there’s an order, we know each other, they know I like the ball in the channels, I know to try and put Johnny Hayes through for one-on-ones. It’s small things that add up, and now we’re playing well. We’re playing better and everybody can see that.”
Though bottom of the league, Inverness will be confident that a repeat of the type of form displayed in their last two games, that epic win at Kilmarnock and a battling loss to Celtic, will lift them up the table. A win at Tynecastle could propel the Highlanders to ninth – above Aberdeen, Dunfermline, and Hibs – in the event that their three nearest rivals fail to win.
Tade sees their rise up the table as inevitable, with the striker citing the trepidation among the Celtic ranks ahead of their trip to Inverness last week as an indication of the esteem in which Terry Butcher’s side are now held.
He said: “Anybody who saw the game would agree with me when I say that we were playing better than them. The team is coming together. We’ve been playing with each other for a while, we know every player’s strength, and we know what we can do and achieve.
“I think when [we climb off the bottom of the SPL table], people will say, “It’s no surprise”. Look at the comments Kris Commons made – “the stadium is not the best”. He was not looking forward to playing this game at all. It’s almost like he was scared to come here and play. [At] 11 v 11, Celtic looked shaky. If Celtic can feel this way when they come to Inverness, we can do anything we want. “We just need the breaks, and they will come. We were playing better football than them [with 11 men]. They couldn’t break us down, we were looking dangerous going forward, we had some shots on target.”