JOHN McGLYNN admits he faces a difficult task to ensure all Hearts players receive ample game time during the club’s pre-season friendlies. However, the new manager praised the summer discipline of his squad, who reported back for training in top physical condition.
Hearts face Raith Rovers today in a testimonial game for Laurie Ellis, who has spent ten years in total with the Kirkcaldy club. The match is also McGlynn’s debut as Tynecastle manager, ironically against his former employers.
The 50-year-old is eager to use the four scheduled summer matches to assess players, but stressed his priorities are readying the team for the season’s opening SPL match against St Johnstone on August 4.
“It’s obviously the time of the season when you can do that [use many players],” he said. “We only have four friendlies, but, although the squad is down [in size], we still have a reasonably high number.
“It’s not too high. It’s trying to get everyone enough game time but, at the same time, trying to get some consistency with regards to looking to get out the blocks on August 4.
“It’s trying to strike that balance. If we were going to play everyone, they could all play two games if they all get a fair share. However, would two games be enough to go in against St Johnstone? That’s the difficulty, getting that balance right.”
The Hearts management team are encouraged by players’ fitness levels following the close season. “They’ve come back in reasonably good condition,” McGlynn told the club website. “They’ve shown a good attitude and they’ve worked extremely hard, so we’re all looking forward to the game.
“We haven’t picked up any injures. The only injuries we have are the ones from last season. We have Jamie Hamill, and Danny Grainger went through a small operation as well. Danny is very close to joining in training, but not with a view to taking part in the game.
“The lads obviously looked after themselves over the summer. That’s normal now. Football players know they haven’t got a long career and they have to make sure they behave over the summer so that they come back in good condition.
“That’s exactly what’s happened. They give themselves a better chance of staying in the game a lot longer if they don’t go and put loads of pounds on over the summer.
“They’re in good condition and they seem to have bought into what we’re trying to do. There seems to be a good team spirit. They’ve quickly drawn up some house rules in their dressing room and they’re trying to get everyone to abide by them so all things are very positive.”
McGlynn stressed his reappearance at Stark’s Park this afternoon should not overshadow Ellis’ celebrations. “It’s nice to go back to so quickly. For it to be the first game will be very nice. However, it is Laurie Ellis’s testimonial game and that will be first and foremost. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Laurie because he deserves his day, that’s for sure.
“It’s nice that Hearts are going there and we’re going to be part of his testimonial. Hopefully there’s a big crowd, the Scottish Cup is going to be there, it’s our first game of the season and hopefully the fans are looking forward to it.”