Austin MacPhee: Hearts must appoint sporting director before manager and avoid Rangers' mistakes

Interim manager explains why club vacancies have to be filled in the right order

Saturday, 9th November 2019, 6:05 am
Assistant coach Austin MacPhee is in charge of Hearts against St Mirren tomorrow
Assistant coach Austin MacPhee is in charge of Hearts against St Mirren tomorrow

Austin MacPhee today implored Hearts to appoint a sporting director before a new manager to avoid mistakes Rangers made with Pedro Caixinha.

The Edinburgh club's interim manager stressed he has not applied for either role but has clear ideas on why one must be filled before the other - highlighting the Rangers case two years ago.

The Ibrox hierarchy hired the Portuguese coach Caixinha in March 2017 before recruiting Mark Allen as sporting director in August that year. There was friction between the two and they worked together for just two months before Caixinha was sacked.

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Hearts need a new manager and sporting director after dismissing Craig Levein, but MacPhee believes one cannot come before the other.

"My personal view is that the sporting director should always be hired before the manager so you build a relationship there," said MacPhee. "The sporting director should be sat in as part of the interviewing process for the manager.

"Ultimately, I think they need to be aligned in how they see football and they need to be relaxed working in that environment. That’s why I feel the sporting director and head coach should have the same KPI [key performance indicators] whereby they have to lead the club to European football, and live and die by the same sword.

"The sporting director’s job is to support the manager in the football infrastructure that the club has set. The club has a plan on how it’s best going to structure itself in terms of recruitment staff, medical, academy etc to make the best use of the player budget.

"There is a path it will go down which, of course, the sporting director influences. They then need to find a manager who has a track record of doing those things.

"I don’t know this but if you do the process in another way like Caixinha and Mark Allen, so Caixinha just signed his own players because there wasn’t a sporting director.

"Then there is a sporting director who is going to propose players for positions or whatever. The only thing that will result from that is conflict and the biggest thing between the two people is trust.

"The way you build trust is by having the same objectives. I do think the order of appointments - in the case of Rangers and I think others like Legia Warsaw because I know the sporting director there - is important."

Having a sporting director who helps recruit the manager should lead to more unity between both parties. "People are so insecure in football and I think what you want to do try and do is remove the insecurity," continued MacPhee.

"If the sporting director is part of the interview process, the new head coach knows the sporting director has his back because he’s chosen him.

"It happens around the world that clubs go from an experienced manager to an up and coming manager. If you have a clear strategy and sporting director you maybe you create more continuity.

"What happens then is that Ian [Cathro] wants to play football in a completely different want to Craig [Levein], so you then end up changing loads of players and there is a clear out and clear out.

"You don’t have a structure long enough to help the club overachieve. This is a brilliant club with a brilliant opportunity, it’s made for midweek nights in Europe, the place bouncing and fans travelling overseas."

MacPhee did not commit to which role, if any, he would prefer. He remains contracted as assistant coach at Hearts and must wait to learn the club's long-term plans for him.

"I think the roles of sporting director and head coach must be aligned and clearly defined," he said. "I think the relationship between those people must be one that when the ball goes in the goal they both feel equally excited that they’ve played a role in Hearts winning.

"The club has to make sure they’re clear on those roles and once we clarify collectively where the lines in the sand are drawn, I am maybe better advised on that point to maybe reflect on where my skill set would be best served at Heart of Midlothian.

"The club is doing a very thorough help check on where it is and I talked about that with Ann Budge. What I feel I need to do is buy the club time so we get the proper system and put the proper people in place to take the club to the next level."

MacPhee takes charge of the team tomorrow against St Mirren, who jointly share bottom place in the Ladbrokes Premiership with Hearts. "All I’ve done is try to focus on preparing the Hearts team as interim manager as well as I can," he said.

"I will not have any regrets that I have not given this my absolute all. That’s all I’ll do and if people make a judgement on where my skill set is, that’s fine."