Austin MacPhee insists a lack of senior playing background will have no effect on whether he and Ian Cathro can command the respect of the Hearts dressing-room.
Doubts have been raised in some quarters about the ability of the new management team to get players onside despite the fact they haven’t played the game themselves to any notable standard. However, MacPhee, the assistant to head coach Cathro, is adamant this perceived disadvantage will not be an issue and that they are no more likely to be found wanting in the man-management department than anybody who has played the game at a high level.
The 37-year-old, who has previously been part of Danny Lennon’s backroom staff at Cowdenbeath and St Mirren and remains assistant to Edinburgh-based Michael O’Neill at Northern Ireland, believes modern footballers are intelligent and forward thinking enough to decide for themselves if a coach’s ideas and methods are worth buying into, regardless of their playing history.
“Players ultimately want to see that you can help them be better,” said MacPhee. “If you can do that, they’ll listen to you. People talk about ‘the dressing-room’ like you’re going into some kind of zoo. Footballers are human beings, and there are a lot of intelligent ones in there. The only thing that helps you govern the dressing-room is respect.
“Pele [widely deemed the greatest player ever] could lose respect in ten minutes and I could gain respect in ten minutes. He’s not going to lose respect as a player but he’s going to lose respect as a manager if players think ‘he can’t coach us very well’, if it’s not organised very well, if it doesn’t work, if they don’t believe in your ideas, if you don’t help them, if you don’t know that some people need a cuddle and some need a kick up the a*se. Ultimately it comes down to human behaviour.”
Cathro and MacPhee met the Hearts squad for the first time on Tuesday and it is understood they made a positive impression on the players.