Hearts boss scours UK in bid to find suitable striker as spearhead for club’s 4-3-3 formation

Hearts manager John McGlynn has come under pressure to change his formation ahead of tomorrow's clash with Aberdeen at Tynecastle
Hearts manager John McGlynn has come under pressure to change his formation ahead of tomorrow's clash with Aberdeen at Tynecastle
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JOHN McGLYNN is scouring the biggest clubs in England for a striker who may solve Hearts’ goalscoring problems. Both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal, amongst others, have fringe and youth players who McGlynn believes could offer his attack a much-needed new dimension.

Finances permitting, he will look to broker loan deals during the January transfer window.

Hearts’ pursuit of a forward is intensifying as January approaches. Their current transfer embargo – punishment for paying players late – ends on December 23 and Lithuania’s top goalscorer Arturas Rimkevicius is already heading to Edinburgh hoping to join the club.

Tomorrow’s SPL encounter with Aberdeen takes precedence for the moment as the hosts look to end a disappointing run of form, which includes no goals in their last three 
outings. However, McGlynn outlined to the Evening News that both he and director of football John Murray are using time between games to suss out potential new strikers south of the Border.

“We’ve got a list of players,” he said. “If you have one player and you don’t get him, then you hit a brick wall. There are no guarantees you will get the guy you want for a variety of reasons. We have to have a list. Myself and John Murray work on that continuously.

“We watch a number of 
Under-21 games down in England on Mondays. John has been down virtually every week. I’ve been down to quite a number of them. Although we train on a Monday I like to go down and watch one of these games at night. John can go down and watch them in the afternoon if they kick off early.

“We’re watching a number of guys playing in the equivalent of reserve teams at big clubs like Liverpool, Everton, Man United, Man City, Sunderland, Newcastle, Middlesbrough. I’ve seen West Ham and Arsenal playing against the likes of Bolton and Blackburn. You normally wouldn’t get to see these teams unless you got on a plane or a train and ended up down in London. These are younger players who may not break through at first-team level because their clubs are spending absolute millions. They could still do a job for us.

“That’s been seen with the likes of Anthony Stokes, who did a good job for John Hughes at Falkirk in the past. That’s the kind of thing we’re looking at. There will still be players playing in Scotland and elsewhere that we feel could do a job for us as well.”

Last week’s defeat to Hibs at Easter Road, which saw Hearts eliminated from the Scottish Cup by the opponents they beat 5-1 in last year’s final, made for a difficult week at Riccarton, by McGlynn’s own admission.

The manager has endured criticism over team selection and formation. Strikers John Sutton and Gordon Smith have remained on the substitutes’ bench in recent weeks despite Hearts scoring only 14 goals in 16 SPL matches so far. McGlynn revealed he is now considering a change of approach.

“With regards to formations, I haven’t changed a lot at Hearts,” he explained. “They were playing with one striker in a 4-3-3 formation, generally. Now, you can argue it’s three attacking players, but people only look at the one up front. That system works all the way through this football club. Right through our youth teams, they all play 4-3-3.

“When we bring our younger players through and put them in our first team, they are more familiar with that system because that is what they’ve been brought up with. It’s in Hearts’ make-up and structure that this is the way they will play.

“I’ve stuck with that since I’ve come here. The two exceptions were the League Cup quarter-final against Dundee United, when we won on penalties, and then the following game against Dundee at Dens Park. We played a 4-4-2 in those games. I’ve generally stuck to the one formation the rest of the time. It runs through our youth system and Hearts were playing that way anyway, so I haven’t changed what the team was doing previously. We just have different players. Less players.

“If we could have got one good striker in, I feel we would’ve been fine. It may well be that we have to change things because, whilst I’m looking further ahead, we still need to get results now. Despite playing good football, we haven’t managed to get the ball in the back of the net. It may well be that we have to change.”

Aberdeen arrive at Tynecastle sitting fourth in the SPL table, merely four points behind leaders Celtic. Their management team of Craig Brown and Archie Knox are approaching their second anniversary in charge at Pittodrie. McGlynn, by comparison, has been Hearts manager for just five months.

“They needed time to put their team together,” said McGlynn. “I’ve not really had the opportunity to put my team together, however that’s not a slight on the players here. We have a good group of players who I get on very well with and who work very hard for me. In my opinion, we are short in an area of the team that needs strengthened. That is the 
forward line.”

Whilst he must find a way through the visiting defence tomorrow, at the opposite end McGlynn admitted there is plenty cause for concern. “Johnny Hayes is in good form. Niall McGinn has been scoring goals and we need to be wary of him. Rory Fallon has been playing up front with Scott Vernon in midfield because Aberdeen have had a number of injuries.

“They could be better off in terms of injuries coming to Tynecastle, but they have good midfielders with Isaac Osborne, Gavin Rae and Stephen Hughes. I don’t know if Ryan Fraser is going to be fit, but these are all guys you need to watch.”