ARRIVE at Riccarton before sunrise and don’t leave till after sunset – and that’s in the summer. It’s the only way John McGlynn knows. If he was thorough and meticulous as Hearts’ assistant manager, what might he be like as manager? Even more immersed in the job, if that’s possible.
McGlynn’s work ethic is second to none in Scottish football. It was that which helped drag Raith Rovers from second bottom of the Second Division to the brink of the SPL during his tenure at Stark’s Park. As a result, he is courted by Hearts to replace Paulo Sergio and was interviewed for the job yesterday.
Several other candidates are talking with the Tynecastle hierarchy before a final decision can be taken on the new manager. But McGlynn already ticks many boxes: he knows the club; has been successful there before; has a proven record of developing young players, an he progressed at Raith on a strict budget. He’s fiercely loyal and honest, not forgetting hard working. In these austere times, with more youth academy graduates to be promoted to the senior squad, he is a good fit.
McGlynn worked tirelessly at youth, reserve and first-team level during a ten-year association with Hearts before moving to Raith in 2006. The prospect of him returning as manager prompts those who thrived because of him to explain how he might lead the club.
“John is a big Hearts man and a very good coach,” said Robbie Neilson, who played under McGlynn at youth, reserve and first-team level at Tynecastle. “You’ll get a guy who would go in there and work from six in the morning till eight at night. He would give it his all.
“John knows his stuff. He’s very tactically adept, he works on tactics and shape all the time. He’s very good at that and he’s very thorough. He’ll be the first guy in and the last guy to leave every day. You only ever get 100 per cent from John. I think he would be a good option for Hearts.
“It’s probably a good time to get the Hearts job because everyone knows the situation and the pressure could be off a little bit now that the budget has been cut. He could go in there and build a team. I think he’ll get a chance to do that.
“John is a great guy and he’s good with the young kids as well. If that’s the route Hearts are going down, he would be a good guy to have. He knows all the coaches there already. He’d be a sensible option if they want to bring young players through. John can come across as quite laid back at times but he isn’t. He can come out of his shell and have a go at people and get them motivated.”
Those underwhelmed by the thought of McGlynn prowling Tynecastle’s technical area could do worse than recall his previous contributions to Hearts. He helped develop youth players like Neilson, Craig Gordon and Scott Severin during the late 1990s/early 2000s. Those players and many others respect him and speak highly of him to this day.
It is also worth remembering that McGlynn was heavily involved in arguably Hearts’ most successful season since the league championship-winning campaign of 1959/60. During 2005/06, he assisted George Burley, Graham Rix and Valdas Ivanauskas as Hearts finished second in the SPL to reach the Champions League qualifying rounds and won the Scottish Cup. Only the incredibly naive would believe he didn’t contribute to those achievements. In fact, he was one of few constants throughout a tumultuous year. He knows well the young Hearts players on the cusp of regular first-team football. He’s had several of them on loan at Raith already, a result of his long-standing friendship with director of football John Murray. Jason Holt, Denis Prychynenko, Jamie Walker and David Smith were at Stark’s Park last season, whilst David Templeton played under McGlynn during a loan spell at Raith in 2008. Jamie MacDonald, Marius Zaliukas, Andy Webster and Andy Driver all worked with him during his first spell at Hearts.
McGlynn is not considered a “big name” to follow Sergio but his understanding of Hearts will not be bettered by any other candidate for the job. Nor can his professional diligence be questioned. In 2006, during an interview with the Evening News, he revealed how his commitment to Hearts often took precedence over parental duties to then-teenage daughter Mandy.
“It’s fair to say I’ve not been the best father because I’ve very seldom been there for her. I’m not proud of that but I have put a lot of time into football,” he admitted.
His all-consuming, studious approach has impressed many. Likewise his influence on young players. “If you have quite a lot of young boys in your team, they need to know what they’re doing. They need to be set up with a good shape about them and know what they’re doing tactically to have a chance. That’s what John will do,” continued Neilson. “He will change the shape of the team when necessary. He’ll play 4-4-2, 4-5-1, 4-3-3. He’ll change it week in, week out depending what team he is playing against. He did that at Hearts before. The players will all know exactly what they have to do.”
Working within a tight budget would not phase him, either. “I think John would like that,” said Neilson. “He’s the kind of manager who could deal with that, he can motivate the young players and improve them. If Hearts are going to bring young boys through and put out a younger team, John would be a good man to do it. That’s what he’s done throughout his career.”
His achievements in Kirkcaldy stand second only to those of Jimmy Nicholl in the modern era. McGlynn took charge of Raith in November 2006 as they languished near the foot of the Second Division. He guided them to the Second Division title in 2009. The following year, he took them to the Scottish Cup semi-finals before losing to Dundee United. He was named PFA Scotland Manager of the Year for season 2010/11 as Raith ran Dunfermline close for promotion to the SPL.
“I remember when John left Hearts,” recalled Neilson. “He’d done a good job and he took a chance going to Raith. He went there with a fairly low budget and did well. They struggled a bit last year but before that they really did well. Now he’s got that experience of being a manager, I’m sure it will serve him well if he goes back to Hearts.”