Don Cowie believes Jon Daly is now equipped to lead Hearts on a permanent basis, and the midfielder intends to boost the interim head coach’s job prospects by helping secure victory away to Rangers today.
Under-20 coach Daly was handed the reins after Ian Cathro’s sacking at the start of this month and the Irishman has overseen a 4-1 defeat away to Celtic and a spirited 1-0 win away to Kilmarnock.
While there is not quite a clamour among supporters for the former Dundee United and Rangers striker to be appointed head coach, he has proved an assured and impressive caretaker over the past few weeks, with Evening News columnist Gary Mackay suggesting on Monday that Daly would become a genuine contender if he could mastermind a victory at Ibrox.
Midfielder Don Cowie, one of the senior figures in the dressing-room, is in no doubt that his fellow 34-year-old, who had a brief stint as caretaker after Robbie Neilson left last year, could handle the demands of the role if chosen ahead of other more illustrious names in the running.
“There’s been a real lift about the place,” said Cowie of Daly’s influence. “He’s brought that competitive edge back, especially in training. I think that showed at Kilmarnock last weekend. If we can get another result, I’m sure it will do Jon no harm at all.
“The team is in good hands. Nine months ago when he was caretaker he was quite new to it and he said himself he wasn’t ready at that time. But now I see someone who is ready to be Hearts manager. The boys really respect him. I can only go on what I see in training but there’s been a great response to him and long may that continue.”
More established managers like Steve McClaren, Paulo Sergio, Paul Hartley, Steven Pressley and Dougie Freedman have been linked with the Hearts vacancy, but Cowie is adamant Daly’s lack of managerial pedigree shouldn’t count against him.
“It’s only natural that people look towards bigger names because Hearts is a massive job,” said the vice-captain. “We’ve read the names linked to the post and they are big names. It doesn’t surprise me that people like that want the job. But I’m sure Jon is in there, under consideration and a win at Ibrox could be massive for him and for us and for the season ahead.”
Cowie explained that last weekend’s hard-fought win at Rugby Park has had a galvanising effect on the Hearts players after a tumultuous start to the season. “Last weekend was massive because we’ve not won enough games lately and our away form has not been good enough in the last 12 months,” he said. “No matter how we got the win, it was good to do it on a tough surface and to get a clean sheet was great. It’s given us a real boost. There’s been a great competitiveness around training right now because those who maybe were not involved now see there’s a clean slate and the ones who were playing have to prove themselves all over again. There’s a real hunger about the place and I am really excited for the Rangers game.”
Cowie believes that victory at Ibrox would help restore a sense of buoyancy to Hearts. With Esmael Goncalves’s red card from last weekend having been rescinded and Jamie Walker in contention to start after sitting out the last three matches amid ongoing interest from today’s opponents, there is optimism in the Hearts camp that they can beat Rangers, a side they defeated twice at Tynecastle last season and ran close at Ibrox in May. “It would be massive and there’s no reason why we can’t do it,” said Cowie. “Rangers are a good team, there’s no doubt about it, but we showed last season that we can trouble them and hopefully we can do it again on Saturday.”