REBUILDING Hearts this season is the biggest overhaul at Tynecastle since the 1970s, according to the man entrusted with the task, John McGlynn. The manager today outlined the size of the job facing him as he contends with squad transition, promoting youth players, wage delays, budget cuts and a recently-imposed transfer embargo.
McGlynn recalled the dark days of the late 1970s when Hearts were in the First Division and in danger of going out of business. He believes the current restructure is just as big a task but remains positive in his outlook and confident in his ability to complete the transformation. “I knew it was a big job when I came in and nobody else kind of realised that,” he said. “It is probably the biggest repair job since the 1970s. This is probably as big a job as then because of the route we are going down. I am just trying to show you the picture, but I am very positive and confident and the players have been tremendous. With two or three victories, we will climb the table and the football side will be fine. But the other side of it needs to be addressed.”
On Hearts’ financial situation at the end of a week when some players’ wages again arrived late, he added: “If you are a Hearts fan, you cannot be totally comfortable and I think they have to realise that. I think they have to rally round and we have to try to get as many bums on seats as possible. As always, it is easier to follow a winning team and we need to get the team winning. Without painting too bleak a picture, I think everyone has to try to support the football club.
“I think everyone has to temper expectations. This is going over old ground, but we have lost a number of players from the Scottish Cup final and the team finished fifth in the league last term. We beat Auchinleck 1-0 and scraped through against St Johnstone and St Mirren before winning the cup. It’s not like it was Brazil, so what do you expect when you lose players? You’ve got to wake up and smell the coffee. It is not easy.” Although times may be difficult, McGlynn has had it tougher. “Probably the last time I was at Hearts when George Burley’s job became untenable on the day of the Dunfermline game and I had to take over the team. That was the toughest time. It was followed quickly by Phil Anderton, the chief executive at that time, moving on and the chairman George Foulkes moving on. It happened around this time of year, I think, and that was the biggest situation I had to handle as the caretaker manager. We won three games out of four at that period.”
Hearts players are right behind McGlynn and their club despite delays in wages in each of the last two months. They were being updated daily on the situation by officials at Tynecastle throughout the last week, a significant improvement in communication from when salaries were delayed late last year.
“There is much more transparency with the wages issue and you can accept it a bit more – the club are trying exceptionally hard to pay the boys on time,” said defender Andy Webster, one of six players who did not receive his salary on time on Tuesday. “I can only speak for myself and we know there is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to pay the players on time. You appreciate things when there is communication and contact and the players know what is going on. Last season when it happened the players were kept in the dark and there was a lot of uncertainty and we were all drawing our own conclusions. We have greater lines of communication through the club as the players asked to be kept informed and we know a bit more about what is going on and that is easier to take.
“How that message is conveyed to the players and whether it is an e-mail, a fax, a letter or phone call is not a major issue. There has been no indication that it will continue into next month so we will cross that when we come to it.”
An era when turmoil gripped Tynie
The late 1970s was an especially difficult period for Hearts.
The club was relegated from Scotland’s top flight for the first time in their history in 1977. Manager John Hagart resigned to be replaced by Willie Ormond but the club suffered a huge loss in income in the First Division and was soon under real financial pressure.
A total of 14 senior players had to be released, including Jim Cruickshank, Dave Clunie, Roy Kay and Kenny Aird. Although they were promoted back to the Premier Divison the following season, Hearts were relegated again in 1979.
It required share issues and the arrival of Wallace Mercer in the early 1980s to transform the club, helped by some promising young players emerging like Gary Mackay, John Robertson and Dave Bowman.