Austin MacPhee: Hearts need a manager who can lead them for the next five years
Players preparing for Ibrox despite uncertainty
Should tomorrow’s game with Rangers become Austin MacPhee’s last as interim Hearts manager, he will want to step back with head held high. He also wants the club to make a long-term appointment to serve them well for the next five years.
A result at Ibrox would be as reinvigorating as it is unexpected for the Edinburgh club as they sit managerless and joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership. MacPhee believes it is possible.
He has no idea, however, how long his temporary reign will last. He can only take the situation one day at a time whilst owner Ann Budge takes time to find a new manager.
This will be the fourth match since Hearts sacked Craig Levein. A 3-0 Betfred Cup semi-final loss against the Glasgow club, a 5-2 league win over St Mirren and last week’s harrowing 3-0 reverse at Rugby Park have prodcued a mixed bag for the man who was Levein’s assistant.
He feels the new recruit must not be a quick fix and should be capable of holding the manager’s chair for up to half a decade.
“I am taking it day by day and trying to be as honest as possible with everybody, including the players. I speak to Ann every day and that’s all I can really say. I don’t have a day when I start or stop,” said MacPhee.
“I genuinely just look to the next game and try to have the team as well prepared as they can be.
“In any situation like this, when an assistant becomes an interim, one of the assistant’s main roles is the relationship with the players. When you come in as an interim manager, you have to maintain that relationship while still showing leadership.
“They are aware that you are not in total charge, so it becomes a situation that you have to manage by having positive relationships with people. In that respect, I feel so far, so good. Naturally people, whether it is the agent, or family, ask them all the time what is happening and that is something that can make you think about it a bit more. The most important thing for the club is that the right appointment is made for the next five years, not necessarily the next five days.”
MacPhee has done his best to communicate information with the first-team squad as often as possible because he knows players will be eager for information on their new boss.
“I try to be proactive with it and tell them the most up-to-date information I have from Ann,” he added. “I try to communicate, whether at the start of a team meeting or training. I tell the, that as far as I know, this is the situation just now.
“I think you are always better to over communicate with players in these situations and try to make sure they know what you know, irrespective of the interim nature of the role.”
Despite defeats to Rangers and Kilmarnock, MacPhee has not been dissuaded from one day becoming a manager in his own right.
“I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “Obviously I have done it for a period before. I just love football. I have loved it since I was a kid and I still love it. I feel very privileged to work within football and that’s something I want to continue to do.”
Hearts have left-back Aaron Hickey available after he was withdrawn with a tight groin against Kilmarnock. Centre-back Clevid Dikamona is likely to miss out. “Aaron is fine. He has trained well. Clevid is taking a little bit longer to recover but we are also positive about John Souttar, Ben Garuccio, Conor Washington and Peter Haring. They will all be like new signings in the January window, if not before.”