GOOD job John McGlynn is not easily flustered. After another week dominated by non-football events, Hearts return to the pitch tomorrow against Ross County. Their manager is unperturbed by off-the-field matters and has barely looked up from the training pitch all week whilst the Scottish Premier League were reprimanding his club and banning them from signing players.
To McGlynn, a 60-day transfer embargo means absolutely nothing. When you aren’t intending signing anyone it has little effect. His present situation at Tynecastle mirrors that of his old job with Raith Rovers when player recruitment was an occasional luxury rather than a regular occurrence. So this week has been business as usual.
Whilst Hearts’ managing director David Southern faced SPL cub-committees at Hampden Park, McGlynn was diligently preparing his players for upcoming assignments. Hearts are looking to complete the first quarter of their Scottish Premier League campaign with a second successive home win, this time against a Highland club visiting for the first time on league business. Then it’s a League Cup quarter-final at Tannadice next Wednesday.
To McGlynn, tactical efficiency is far more meaningful than transfer embargoes right now. “It’s not really bothered me in the slightest because I’ve been used to it at Raith Rovers,” he told the Evening News. “Transfer windows come and transfer windows go and I don’t bat an eyelid because I never had the chance of getting players in anyway. This (embargo) has made no difference to me whatsoever and I wouldn’t suggest it will make any difference to the players.
“We have been performing consistently. We maybe haven’t been consistent in front of goal and that might be why we haven’t won as many games as we should have. I think our performances and our effort deserve more. However, our spirit is great, the lads are buzzing and I have every confidence that we will go from strength to strength. I could be talking to you this time next week sitting with 15 points and in the semi-final of the League Cup with everything to look forward to.”
One of the areas McGlynn has worked on all season is that of goalscoring. With the help of assistant manager Edgaras Jankauskas and first-team coach Gary Locke, he is eager to make the few strikers at his disposal more potent after bemoaning chances being passed up. Dale Carrick’s hernia surgery leaves Callum Paterson, John Sutton and Gordon Smith vying for the solitary striking berth.
“If you took each of our forwards, one could go with Edgaras, one could go with Lockie and one could go with me because we’ve only got the three. It wouldn’t be very hard to work with them one-on-one,” laughed McGlynn. “We work on the forwards on an ongoing basis. Edgaras has worked with them, Lockie has worked with them and I have worked with them. Believe me, it’s not as if we aren’t working at it.
“Personally, I’m not really fussy who scores the goals. If Danny Grainger scores one like his one against Motherwell every week then I’ll be delighted. We are going out to score as many goals as we can but there will be days when you win 1-0. If it’s a goal like Danny’s on Sunday then, as a manager, I’m not overly concerned. As long as a Heart of Midlothian football player puts that ball in the back of the net, I’ll be happy.
“From the strikers’ point of view, scoring breeds confidence and helps their composure in front of goal. When that isn’t there then they sometimes snatch at things and it becomes more difficult. I understand that. The main thing is we’re creating chances. As long as we’re creating, that ball will go in the net. We practise things like shooting from outside the box because at times we find ourselves trying to score goals through a packed defence and it’s hard to break through.”
Paterson is the man in favour at the moment but McGlynn is keen that Sutton and Smith do not become disheartened. “John is always in my thoughts,” he said of Sutton. “We don’t have that many strikers that we can overlook anybody. We’ve gone with Callum up front and John’s been coming on and doing well. When you aren’t in the team that’s exactly what you’ve got to do, force the issue.”
McGlynn watched Smith score the winner in Wednesday’s Under-20 derby with Hibs and said it will provide the player with a much-needed boost. “I was delighted with Gordon. He punished an error in the Hibs defence because he was sharp getting on to the ball and finished it off very well. He got a lift from that after scoring last week for the under-20s against Ross County.”
Four previous first-team meetings between Hearts and Ross County – all in cup competitions – have yielded three Hearts victories. Another three points would help McGlynn build momentum following an encouraging 1-0 win over Motherwell last weekend. McGlynn recently revealed his desire to finish the first quarter of the season with 15 points. Twelve have been amassed so far and another three should not be beyond Hearts at home to a newly-promoted club.
McGlynn also has the added advantage of knowing County inside out having faced them many times as Raith manager. “I don’t think many people in the SPL would know them better than I do because I managed against them for so many years,” he said. “Myself and probably Barry Smith at Dundee would know more than anyone about their players. They are very dangerous from set-pieces. Richard Brittain scored a great free kick against Celtic and Iain Vigurs has also scored free kicks this season. They have big lads at the back who are threats at set-pieces.
“Colin McMenamin had a really good season last year in the First Division. He came on as a sub to score the winning goal against Hibs so he might get a recall. Then there’s Gary Glen, we need to watch out for him coming back to his old club. It’s only human nature that people want to put one over on their old team so we need to make sure Gary doesn’t do that.
“Ross County have come a long way in a short period of time and had a good victory last week against Hibs. They will be difficult but, like all home games, we look to get three points. That’s the challenge in front of us and one we’re ready to take head on. To get a run going, you need to start somewhere and we’ve started by beating Motherwell. Next it’s Ross County at home.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s a winnable game but we do give respect to our opponents. They stand between us and another three points so we need to be hungry to go and get back-to-back home wins.”