Frankie McAvoy discusses Steven Naismith's future, role within management team and most important aspect

Frankie McAvoy insists it’s just a matter of time before Steven Naismith will become manager of Hearts after the new head coach addressed the club’s supporters for the first time.
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The 55-year-old was given the title of head coach, with Naismith as technical director, when the Tynecastle club confirmed their new management set-up last month.

The trio, including Gordon Forrest as a first-team coach, took control of the team for the final seven games of last season after Robbie Neilson had been sacked. Naismith was undoubtedly the man in charge for the period, though the former Scottish international lacks the necessarily qualifications to manage in European competition, of which Hearts will have at least two games when they play in Europa Conference League qualifying next month.

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At present the trio have more of a committee vibe about them as they work together to improve the fortunes of the club following the disappointment of missing out on third place as the 2022/23 season drew to a close. Though despite some confusion, McAvoy insists it’s working for everyone involved during their pre-season training camp in Marbella as he effusively praised his two younger colleagues, particularly Naismith’s desire to succeed, something he believes will stand him in good stead for his career in management ahead.

Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy insists the ultimate decision on team selection will land with him. Picture: SNSHearts head coach Frankie McAvoy insists the ultimate decision on team selection will land with him. Picture: SNS
Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy insists the ultimate decision on team selection will land with him. Picture: SNS

"It took a bit of time and there were a good few chats after we had the seven games, but we got the nod. It's been fantastic. I've got to thank the board for choosing us,” he told Hearts TV.

"We work really well as a team. There's a great spirit between the three of us. I'm a bit older than the other two but they've got fantastic careers in football ahead of them, as far as I’m concerned.

"I think there's good balance between the three of us. I've known Naisy for a while, a long time in the game. His role at the moment is technical director but he’s going to manage this club going forward, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. He’s got a fantastic hunger and desire to succeed. That’s what he was like as a player and from the short space of time that I’ve worked with him in the first-team, he’s got a real hunger and desire to do well there as well. That rubs off on the players as well and on guys like myself and Gordy.

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"Gordy's a great coach who puts on fantastic sessions. The key thing here is that we all work together collaboratively in putting sessions together.

Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy spoke for the first time after the management team were announced last month. Picture: SNSHearts head coach Frankie McAvoy spoke for the first time after the management team were announced last month. Picture: SNS
Hearts head coach Frankie McAvoy spoke for the first time after the management team were announced last month. Picture: SNS

"The current set up is fresh, vibrant and modern. Football has changed. It moves at such a fast pace, you can’t do everything yourself. I think Hearts have put together a really good team.”

While the confusion over the first-team figurehead is increasing anxiety levels among the club’s fanbase, McAvoy has explained that ultimately it’s about the players and whether they buy into what the new management staff are instructing them to do. And, based on performances in their time together towards the end of last season, he reckons the proof is already in the pudding.

"I know with the seven games, we won two of the seven. But I thought, over the course of those seven games, that the key components of what we wanted to do with the team were there for people to see,” he said. “For that to be instilled in such a short space of time is a credit to the players because they're the ones that had to buy into that.

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“The players are the most important people at the club. It's not us as the managers, the coaches or the head coaches. We’re here to try and put a product on the pitch that people want to come and watch. That’s our task. I think we’ve started well but we need to maintain that and get them flying as best as we can, and as early as we can. Because if we can pick up points earlier then that’ll help us with the process going along.

"We’re all very much looking forward to the new campaign, so there is an air of excitement about the place.”

McAvoy hopes to add some wisdom to the management trio. Forrest, 46, has worked for many years in coaching but only has two seasons with a Scottish top-flight club, while Naismith, for all he achieved during his playing career, got the call to be caretaker manager last term after less than a campaign in charge of the club’s B-team.

McAvoy, meanwhile, was an assistant to Alex Neil at Hamilton Accies, Norwich City and Preston North End before leading the latter as manager for an eight-and-a-half-month period. He reckons his prior experience in this side of the game could prove to be invaluable.

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"I’m the older guy here who just needs to make sure we keep everything at an even keel. There’s still five weeks to go so we need to be building that up regularly until the games start,” he said.

"You get good days and bad days as a manager but if there's one thing I've learned from my time in football, is that you have to try and stay on a level. Don't get too high when you win and don't get too low when you lose. It's about keeping a good balance. As a young manager you can sometimes get a bit hyped up, like a young player coming into the first team. It’s that excitement.

“You have to make sure you’re prepared for what lies ahead, because we're going to have days where it's tough. We're not going to win every game, but we'll give it our best to try and win every game by preparing the right way to compete.”