Hearts have given former Hibs midfielder John Rankin a coaching role at Riccarton and brought Dale Carrick back inside their academy.
Rankin is coaching Hearts’ Under-17s and Carrick the Under-14s as part of an expansion overseen by director of football Craig Levein.
Although captain of Queen of the South, 33-year-old Rankin is keen to forge a coaching career. He spent three-and-a-half years at Easter Road but jumped at the chance to work at Riccarton. He is there on a part-time basis until the end of the season. However, that agreement could be extended.
Carrick, ten years younger, is currently on loan at Cowdenbeath from Livingston but also wants to develop his coaching ability. The striker was part of the last generation of Hearts academy graduates to reach first-team level in 2012. He left for Kilmarnock in 2015 before joining Livingston last summer.
Youth academy manager Roger Arnott explained to the Evening News how Rankin and Carrick are already making an impact within their respective age-groups.
“When Ian Cathro came in as head coach, he wanted more coaching staff on the training pitch so he took Andy Kirk with him. Andy was coaching our under-17s and under-20s, so I had a vacancy,” said Arnott.
“What has worked really well for us – and this is part of the club and Craig’s strategy – is to have potential future coaches in the system who can progress. They might or might not become the manager one day but it’s worked really well so far. We had Robbie Neilson in to start with and then he stepped up. We brought Liam Fox in and Jon Daly. Now we’ve brought John Rankin in.
“Gary Kirk, our head of recruitment, knows John from Dundee United so there was a link there. We had a chat and a day later he was in. That’s his enthusiasm. He was like: ‘Brilliant, this will be great. I’m really looking forward to it.’
“For me, he is the ultimate professional. He’s had a great upbringing down at Manchester United and has a lot of experience. He treats the game with a lot of respect and these are all great values to pass on to young players. He also knows the game inside out and understands what it takes to be a footballer.
“At under-17s, where it’s about understanding the game and developing game knowledge, we need people who have played the game to pass on that detail. That’s why we brought John in. He’s been fantastic on the training pitch. He’s really enthusiastic. His level of detail is really good.”
Carrick’s insight as an academy product who knows the challenges faced by players in the system has also been invaluable to Hearts. “I actually spoke to Dale when he left to join Kilmarnock. He had done Level 1 and 2 SFA coaching courses through our community coach Alan White, and Alan said he just had a great manner with young kids.
“Dale wanted to focus on his playing career at that time because he was still playing full-time. He’s now more local so it works for him to think about coaching. He’s keen to do more and he’s been great because he understands what it’s like here and what it takes to make it.
“At under-14s, that starts to become important because the boys are becoming young adults. They need to be focused. Dale speaks to them very well so now he needs to learn how to coach. He’s got knowledge in his head but the difficulty is how to impart that to young players. We want to keep him here as long as we can.”