HEARTS manager John McGlynn today told his players to hold their heads high after matching almost £90 million worth of Liverpool talent with an impassioned performance in last night’s Europa League play-off first leg.
An unfortunate own goal by Andy Webster 12 minutes from full-time gave the English Premier League club a 1-0 victory at Tynecastle, however McGlynn stressed that no-one could have complained if the result was reversed.
Liverpool left first-team mainstays like Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique out of their squad, but multi-million-pound signings like Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Joe Allen and Stewart Downing all featured.
Hearts, in contrast, fielded a team mostly made up of free transfer signings and products from the Riccarton youth academy. McGlynn explained how his players stood toe to toe with a squad which cost millions of pounds and looked every inch the equal of their opponents.
“Our guys worked extremely hard because we had to make up for it,” said McGlynn. “That was the question I was getting asked: What could we do to make up for the financial gulf between the two teams? The players were disciplined and worked ever so hard. You could still see the class that Liverpool had. They had nearly £90million worth of players on the pitch, so you get what you pay for. We matched them in nearly every department. If you are well organised, stick together, work your socks off and stick to the game plan, then you have a chance. I don’t think anyone could have complained if we got the 1-0 victory. Failing that, we certainly deserved a draw. It’s very harsh on the players to lose.”
Martin Kelly’s driven cross late in the game careered off Webster and beyond Jamie MacDonald for the game’s only goal. McGlynn insisted the Scotland defender won’t be unduly affected by the chain of events. “I don’t think Andy will feel personally responsible. He isn’t daft, he knows he couldn’t do anything about it. This wasn’t a bad mistake, the ball has just hit off him.”
McGlynn felt there was little more Hearts could have done to achieve a positive result ahead of next week’s second leg at Anfield. “I felt we were ready for it and I’ve got to say the players were remarkable in the way they carried the game plan out. I take my hat off to them and I couldn’t be any happier with the performance. I’m just disappointed for them because they deserved a better result.”