Austin MacPhee: Next ten days will show if I can be Hearts manager
Assistant coach ready to relish interim role as he prepares for Betfred Cup semi-final
Austin MacPhee admits the next ten days will determine whether he can become the permanent Hearts manager. The 40-year-old is in interim charge following Craig Levein’s sacking and has wasted no time making changes, promoting youth coach Donald Park to the first-team staff.
MacPhee will oversee Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final against Rangers as Hearts search for Levein’s successor. Having been an assistant throughout his career at Cowdenbeath, St Mirren, Hearts and Northern Ireland, he is still debating whether he wants to manage in his own right.
“Sunday will show me where I am. For better or worse, Sunday will tell me a lot about me,” said MacPhee. “I need to stand at the side of the pitch with nobody bar me responsible for that team, that 90 minutes and those decisions.
“If I feel comfortable about that just now. Let’s see if I feel comfortable about it at 5pm or 5.30pm on Sunday. The next ten days will tell a lot of people about how competent I am.”
Hearts face St Mirren in the league next weekend and MacPhee could also find himself in charge for that match prior to the international break. He has promoted Park, 66, from the Riccarton youth academy to add coaching experience gleaned with Scotland Under-19s, Hibs and Inverness Caledonian Thistle among others.
“Donald is very experienced and different to what is currently in the building in terms of the experience he has,” explained MacPhee. “I have moved him from the academy side to be with me for however long the interm period is. He will be there to give me advice, support and criticism on Sunday.”
Naismith is set to start Sunday’s tie on the substitutes’ bench. He is ready to return from a presistent hamstring issue having been sidelined since August.
Asked if Naismith could start, MacPhee delivered a coy response. “I like the sound the Rangers fans make when you bring Steven on. It’s beautiful,” he smiled.
“Steven was training on the grass. I will be in constant dialogue with him about his health. I know how much training he has done and how much should be in his legs.”
Forward Jamie Walker is also expected to be available despite taking a knock during Wednesday night’s loss at St Johnstone – the defeat which ultimately sealed Levein’s fate. Walker made his return as a second-half substitute at McDiarmid Park but could not manage to influence the game.
He did take a kick from an opponent but managed to train yesterday with the rest of the Hearts squad. He is expected to train again today and it will be down to MacPhee whether he starts at Hampden.
“Jamie Walker is okay. He is training but he did get a kick on the foot on Wednesday,” explained the interim manager.
Peter Haring is back from Austria after visiting a medical specialist in his homeland. He has also been training this week but it is doubtful whether he will be involved this weekend. The midfielder has not played at all this season due to an ongoing pelvic complaint which saw him fly back to Austria last week.
“Peter was on the grass and is coming back from a long-term injury,” said MacPhee. “Peter’s Austrian man said positive things which have made Peter feel better. He came out to train and looked like he is a really good player.”