JUST a matter of weeks ago, Hearts striker Gary Glen would have viewed a place on the substitutes’ bench as considerable progress.
Now, despite the Jambos only making delicate manoeuvres in the January transfer window, the 5ft 10ins frontman has suddenly found himself catapulted back into serious contention for a first-team start under Paulo Sergio.
Glen is one of a select group of three forwards competing for one role, as the sole striker within Paulo Sergio’s starting line-up, after Ryan Stevenson, who had been in self-imposed exile anyway following the late payment of wages, signed for Ipswich Town and John Sutton left on loan to Australia’s Central Coast Mariners. Aside from the departure early in January of Eggert Jonsson to Wolves, no other first-team players left during a month in which it was widely expected many would leave Hearts.
“There’s an opportunity for me now with big Sutts away to Australia for six months,” said Glen. “It gives me a chance to show what I can do, and hopefully I get a chance.
“It’s good that all the boys have stayed. It’s going to keep the confidence up in the squad – we’ve been doing really well. We’re going to keep progressing and doing really well. I just have to keep working hard in training and showing what I can do, and hopefully that’s enough to maybe get a game.
“A lot of people were talking about this player and that player going. A lot of the boys did expect a lot of people to go. There have not been many people gone, so we’ll have to stick as a unit now.
“That will help. With the confidence of the team and the boys staying together, hopefully that will carry on for the rest of the season.”
Glen will turn 22 next month and is, after nearly five years at the club, no longer considered “one for the future”. The fact his contract expires at the close of this season reflects this, and the player is acutely aware of the importance to his long-term prospects at Tynecastle of making a significant impression on Paulo Sergio in a first-team shirt during the coming weeks. Glen says he had held discussions with the club’s management about the possibility of going out on loan, but, as he has done before, he preferred to stick around to offer a constant reminder of his talent to Sergio and Co.
“I’m out of contract in the summer, so it’s make or break time now,” admitted Glen. “I feel I can earn a new contract. I’m confident in my own ability. I’ll show the gaffer and the coaching staff that I’m capable of playing at this level.
“You’ve got to keep a high standard in training every day and train to the best of your abilities. You’ve got experienced players like Stephen Elliott, Kevin Kyle and John Sutton who have done really well here. It’s hard when these players are playing every week to just come into the team. Sutts is away now, so he’s opened up a chance for me.
“I’ve not had a long run. The most I’ve had is five games in a row. That was a while ago, when Stevie Frail was the manager. My last start was the last game of last season, away to Dundee United.”
Glen may quietly advise Sergio that, during his last start in that game of Tannadice, he managed to score, albeit in a 2-1 end-of-season “dead rubber”. After recovering from injury, Glen came off the bench in the slender Scottish Cup win over Auchinleck Talbot and, from tomorrow in the same competition against St Johnstone at Tynecastle, he will hope to step up his bid for more regular first-team action.
“The gaffer said I’d get my chance, but I’ll have to bide my time – whether that’s this weekend or next weekend, I don’t know. I’ve just got to keep working hard in training and keep fit, and when that chance does come I’ll be ready for it.
“St Johnstone give us good games. It’ll be a tough game, but the boys are confident in their ability and have been on a good run so we’ll be looking to do really well. Cup games are totally different to league games. Obviously, everyone is up for league games, but cup games are just a bit different.”
Manager Sergio is clearly a man of his word, saying that Glen’s diligence in training will be rewarded imminently with a chance to showcase his skills in the senior team.
The Hearts boss said: “When you trust a player, you say to him: ‘Work hard – your chance will come.’ Some players have strong character, strong personality, and they know to keep working hard and improving every single day, awaiting that chance. Another player might talk, asking for that chance, and sometimes when that chance arrives, he does nothing. So, Gary is awaiting his chance – and I believe he will get it. With John away there is more space for Glen and Smithy [Gordon Smith] to get chances.”