WHILE the appointment of Edgaras Jankauskas may have come out of the blue for some, one man who wasn’t shocked by the decision to bring him back to Tynecastle was Calum Elliot.
Jankauskas was confirmed as No. 2 to new Hearts manager John McGlynn on Monday night and the former striker is expected to arrive in Edinburgh later this week.
Elliot played alongside Jankauskas up front during the Lithuanian’s two seasons in Edinburgh from 2005 through to 2007, and during that time the young Scot saw exactly the qualities which have seen him progress as a coach.
The 37-year-old Jankauskas spent last season working as assistant manager at Lokomotiv Moscow under Jose Couceiro, who had at one time been linked with the Hearts’ manager’s job.
However, while the Portuguese remains in Russia, it will be Jankauskas who plays a major role in Hearts’ short-term future at least – and Elliot revealed that becoming a coach had always been an ambition of his former team-mate.
“He always talked about becoming a coach one day and wanting to manage at some point in his career,” said Elliot, who is currently playing for Zalgiris Vilnius in Lithuania’s top flight, the A Lyga.
“I know that he was doing the same kind of job last year at a big club so I think that it will be a good appointment for Hearts.
“He has been at the club before as a player and he knows how it all works, so that will be one of the main things.
“Hearts will have a really good coaching team for next season, that is for sure.”
Having linked up with Jankauskas in the Hearts team when he was just 18-years-old, Elliot knows that the powerful big hitman will prove invaluable when it comes to passing on words of advice to the other youngsters who are coming through the ranks now.
“He was always very good with me. I played with him when I was just a young guy and he helped me out a lot,” Elliot said.
“I’m sure that he will be exactly the same now and I would imagine that he will help some players out a lot.”
While Elliot concedes that distance has meant he has not managed to keep too close an eye on the happenings at Hearts, he admitted that he was delighted to find out that McGlynn had returned to the club he once worked for as a part-time youth coach as manager. The former Raith Rovers manager replaced Paulo Sergio in the Tynecastle hot-seat and Elliot believes that his former coach will do a good job managing in the SPL in his own right.
“I haven’t really been able to keep up with everything at Tynecastle but obviously I know that John got the job,” he said.
“I am absolutely delighted for him because he’s a great guy and I hope that he does well in the job, which I am sure he will.
“He was always really good with the younger guys and got on well with everyone.”
Elliot has spent the last six months with Zalgiris Vilnius, having signed a two-year deal back in January after agreeing to end his Hearts contract early. And the Scot was quick out the blocks when he netted his first goal in his first game for his new club, a 2-1 away victory over FK Banga Gargzdai.
Since then he has enjoyed a fair degree of success, scoring four more goals – and winning the Lithuanian Football Federation Cup with Zalgiris following a penalty shoot-out win over Ekranas.
Those highs aside though, it is the fact that he has played every single game for the Lithuanian side since his arrival in the country that is the source of most pleasure for Elliot, who continued: “It’s been good because we won the cup but probably the most important thing for me is that I have played in every game and I have not been injured either, touch wood.
“More than anything else it has been good for me in that way because I think you improve with every game that you play because there’s a bit of consistency there. I’ve been playing games, training hard and feeling fit again and that’s been great for me.
“Everything is going well, although obviously you miss your family and your friends. I think that the whole thing has made me grow up a bit because when you are living in a strange country on your own, you just have to start to look after yourself.
“It’s been a good experience for me and I think I have probably learnt a lot from it too. In that sense it has been good and I also think that it has benefited me in a football sense as well.
“The other big bonus is that it’s a lot warmer than it is in Edinburgh right now.”
Elliot will certainly be feeling the cold as he is back in Scotland for a few days of rest and recuperation ahead of a key European tie.
Vilnius take on Admira Wacker Modling of Austria in the second qualifying round of the Europa League in just over two weeks’ time, but before that the Lithuanian side’s players have been given a three-week break to spend with their families ahead of a week-long training camp next week to ensure that they are fully prepared for the Euro test that lies ahead.
Elliot admits that the language barrier has been a significant hurdle to cross. “It’s been fine because the majority of people involved with the football club, and all over the country really, can speak fairly good English,” he said. “That is a huge help but obviously it can be a bit difficult trying to have a normal conversation with someone when you don’t speak the same language.
“I picked up one or two bits and pieces from some of the Lithuanian boys who have played for Hearts over the last few seasons – but probably most of them are the words that you shouldn’t really be using to be honest!
“I can speak a little bit of the language but not very much, so hopefully that will improve over the next few months.”