Austin MacPhee: 'Uncertainty' over delay in appointing Hearts manager needs to be 'managed carefully'

Interim boss speaks out

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 2nd December 2019, 12:29 pm
Austin MacPhee makes a tactical change at Ibrox

Hearts’ interim manager Austin MacPhee admits uncertainty over the manager’s job must be closely monitored with the team lacking confidence and sitting bottom of the Premiership.

Yesterday was another harrowing afternoon for the Edinburgh club as they suffered a 5-0 defeat against Rangers at Ibrox. More than four weeks since sacking Craig Levein, owner Ann Budge has yet to appoint a replacement.

Talks with the German Daniel Stendel have yet to reach a conclusion and the Hearts players look in need of guidance from an official figurehead. They have won only one of their last nine games. MacPhee has been trying to steady the ship in difficult circumstances for the last month.

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“The uncertainty of the situation for everyone is something that needs managed very carefully,” he said. “I think the longer it goes the more it can at times become an excuse, and it can also become a reality where maybe at times people aren’t as focused on their performance alone as they should be.

“I think that so far the players and staff have been fantastic. As an assistant manager one of your main roles is to have strong relationships with your players, the head coach is always a little more distant. I’ve got nothing but praise for the professionalism of the players in this period. What I would say is that in the next period of time Mrs Budge will make the right decision for the long term future of the club. And we all know the importance of Hearts picking up points in the very busy Christmas period so we move up the league.

“Right now all I do is manage this on a day-to-day basis and try and be as honest with everyone as I can – and try to get the team on the pitch that can pick up three points on Wednesday.”

Hearts welcome Livingston to Tynecastle Park on Wednesday for the second of eight games in a busy December. MacPhee admits the situation is critical ahead of what is a must-win fixture.

“The most important thing is we win on Wednesday night. I spoke to the players about their performance against Rangers and also the situation day-by-day as the club look to make the best decision for Hearts’ future.

“It’s very important the players, staff, myself and supporters all stick together. Two weeks ago we got a fantastic performance against St Mirren. We were on the front foot, scored five goals, and we hadn’t won at home in seven months. So we need to make sure that’s the memory going into Wednesday night rather than today at Ibrox. No manager is going to get judged on the result of a game here. Hearts haven’t won at Ibrox in the [top] league since 2012 so the expectations are different.

“The expectations on Wednesday night are absolutely that we must take three points. I’ll be doing all I can to ensure the right team is on the pitch with the right approach to do that.”

Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent, a Christophe Berra own goal and two strikes by substitute Greg Stewart did the damage for Rangers. Asked for his thoughts on Hearts’ performance, MacPhee commented: “It was a difficult afternoon. We are disappointed in the first half in particular.

“Joel Pereira hasn’t had a save to make and we can defend the two goals better. It’s a very good header from Morelos. He drifted off Berra into an area where we aren’t too strong in the air. Young Jamie [Brandon] maybe commits too early. The second one, the cutback for Kent, we have to make sure we deal with men in the box.

“In the first 20 minutes of the second half I thought we counter-attacked quite well. We tried to play two up front at Ibrox and you need to take your opportunities. You need to score to keep momentum in your game.

“At the third goal, we lose possession in Rangers’ box and ten seconds later we lose a goal. The last ten minutes were very difficult for us. We had to take Aidy White off, who was injured, and then you Aaron Hickey gets hurt trying to defend the fourth goal. I don’t know if it was a foul or not but it’s immaterial. Rangers had their tails up and are trying to score as many goals as the can.

“We got to the final third at times but lacked a little bit of quality when we got there. We tried to play the two front players wider – on the outsides of [Connor] Goldson and [Filip] Helander, to try and pin their full-backs in a bit. I think we could have been a bit better in possession. Uche [Ikpeazu] and Steven [Naismith] combined well at times but we didn’t trouble Allan McGregor enough.”