A GLIMPSE into the future and a return to the past all in one. John McGlynn went back to Raith Rovers with a new-look Hearts side for Laurie Ellis’ testimonial. Eight Riccarton academy graduates began in his starting line-up. If this is the way forward, it looks rather promising.
A 3-0 victory in McGlynn’s first match as manager was an ideal start on a day when Raith supporters honoured Ellis’ ten years’ service. They also thanked McGlynn for his contribution during five-and-a-half years at Stark’s Park. He is now charged with developing youth players into first-team mainstays on the opposite side of the River Forth.
His first decision was bang on the money. Callum Paterson, aged just 17, got the right-back berth and had a proverbial stormer, including scoring the opening goal. Further strikes from John Sutton and David Templeton ensured Hearts’ pre-season campaign started encouragingly in Fife.
“I’ve come here to bring younger players through and I’m not frightened of that,” said McGlynn. “I put them in because they’ve got to gain experience.”
Only Andy Webster, Darren Barr, Mehdi Taouil and Sutton did not pass through the club’s youth academy. Everyone else in Saturday’s 18-man squad was a product of Riccarton to some extent.
“(Denis) Prychynenko went in from the start, (Scott) Robinson isn’t new to it, then we had (Arvydas) Novikovas on one side and (Andy) Driver on the other. He’s another who isn’t new but has come through Hearts’ system,” continued McGlynn. “Then there were more coming on as subs, like David Smith, Jamie Walker, Jason Holt and Dylan McGowan. It was a very young side. More or less everyone came through the youth system. The club stated that’s the way they’re going and I think Saturday was very promising.”
Hearts were without Marius Zaliukas and Gordon Smith due to illness but Paterson immediately caught the eye with his pace and attacking instincts. Raith enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, with both Grant Anderson and Brian Graham sending low efforts narrowly wide of Jamie MacDonald’s goal. The visitors settled into their rhythm midway through the first period. Sutton jinked past Grant Murray – Raith’s player/manager in place of McGlynn – only to be thwarted when the Raith goalkeeper David McGurn emerged quickly to block his shot. Then came the first goal, the highlight of Paterson’s impressive first-team bow. On 29 minutes, after teeing up Sutton for a shot which was blocked, the teenager chested down the rebound and planted it convincingly into the Raith net with his left foot. His celebrations indicated he was rather pleased, and no wonder.
MacDonald pushed Pat Clarke’s deflected free-kick for a corner on 31 minutes before Sutton doubled Hearts’ advantage. He stroked the ball beyond McGurn from Ryan McGowan’s through ball to end the match as a contest. An extra treat for the travelling Hearts support came when former star Scott Crabbe paraded the Scottish Cup during the interval.
The second half was generally played at a slower tempo, however, Hearts produced an impressive third goal when they increased the pace on 67 minutes. Substitutes Templeton and Taouil combined for the former to slot his 20-yard finish low into the corner of the net.
Walker and Dylan McGowan, younger brother of Ryan, made their first-team debuts as substitutes. Walker, after replacing Novikovas, forced McGurn into a fine one-handed save with a 25-yard drive on 78 minutes. The Raith goalkeeper also denied Holt before the final whistle sounded. Then came Ellis’ chance to say thanks to the near-3000 crowd which had turned out in Kirkcaldy, plus guest players Craig Dargo, Gary Wales and Marvin Andrews.
“I was organising this game as Raith Rovers manager and then I ended up in the Hearts dugout. It was a bit special,” admitted McGlynn. “I’m really pleased for Laurie that 3000 fans turned out and there was a good travelling support. I’m sure Laurie’s very grateful to them.”
McGlynn received his own token of thanks from Turnbull Hutton, the Raith chairman, at the end of an ever-friendly afternoon. “I was very pleased to receive an award, although standing beside Turnbull I thought I might get hit by a bullet or something,” he joked in reference to Hutton’s stance during Rangers’ quest to join the Scottish Football League. “If I was an emotional guy, I’d probably be crying.”
As it was, he exited Stark’s Park bursting with pride. “We’ve put a lot of young lads into the team and we’ve come away convincing winners. I thought we played some really good football and we had a great goal from Callum Paterson. He’s one of the young lads who came in, showed lots of enthusiasm and energy up and down the right side and took his goal very well. Kevin McHattie also did well at left-back.”
Raith Rovers (4-4-2): McGurn (Laidlaw 60); Thomson (Wilson 84), Murray (Donaldson 84), Ellis (Andrews 81), Hill (Malone 46); G Anderson (Wales 79), Walker, Callachan (S Anderson 57), Hamill; Clarke (Spence 46), Graham (Dargo 73).
Hearts (4-3-3): MacDonald; Paterson (D McGowan 70), Webster, Barr, McHattie; Robinson (Taouil 63), Prychynenko (Holt 77, R McGowan; Novikovas (Walker 63), Sutton (D Smith 70), Driver (Templeton 63). Subs: Ridgers.
Referee: Craig Charleston.