Date: 14th May 2008 at 10:30pm
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The news that Jackie McNamara is likely to join Falkirk at the age of 34 with a view to moving into coaching has got me wondering if any future improvement in Hearts’ playing fortunes may lie in the hands of someone who is not yet an established coach or manager.

Craig Levein initially cut his coaching teeth whilst he was a senior player, coaching youngsters at Tynecastle while trying to recover (unsuccessfully) from a serious knee injury. Other non-Hearts players to move into coaching recently whilst still playing include Ally McCoist, John Hughes, Ian Durrant, Mixu Paatelainen and Neil Lennon.

The decline in coaching and playing standards at our club has been well-documented on this site over many months, and most fans now doubt whether any established coach will want the Hearts job – assuming that the regime are actually trying to recruit someone. After all, Stephen Frail was appointed caretaker manager because…well…there was no-one else left at the club, basically. It’s as simple as that.

So if ‘Plan A’ (bringing in a distinguished manager with British experience) fails to produce a new man, then ‘Plan B’ is to appoint Frail. However what if Frail then gets fired or decides to leave – who could Hearts turn to from within in a ‘Plan C’ scenario? (Incidentally, I’m not convinced ‘Plan A’ even exists!)

Neil McCann has recently been taking the Reserves for training, thereby taking some of the unfair weight off Frail’s shoulders. But it’s too early to know if this is the direction he wants to take as a career, let alone if he’s going to be any good at it.

Steve Banks already has the official Goalkeeping Coach title, while still an active player. But it’s quite rare for an ex-keeper to become a Head Coach or Manager – I’m not sure if that’s down to club directors not seeing them in the right light or if ex-goalies just don’t want to get involved in wider management.

Our next oldest player is Robbie Neilson at the grand old age of 28! This statistic reveals another angle on the absurd football decision-making at our club, namely that we have no-one else in the vital age-group of 27-32 to provide calmness, experience or leadership on the field or in the dressing-room.

So in our ‘Plan C’ scenario, if Frail was to leave or be sacked, Hearts’ succession plan consists of a goalie coach and a rookie unqualified coach (much the same as Frail himself, actually). In other words – no succession plan at all.

Could a current player at another club, approaching the end of his career while gaining some coaching experience there, perhaps be the man to provide a better future for our club? Without knowing which players intend to make a career out of coaching, I wonder if any of these guys will make a go of it somewhere: Barry Wilson (ICT), Allan Johnston (Kilmarnock), Kevin James (St. Johnstone), Andy Tod (Raith), Gary Locke (Kilmarnock).

The professional game needs new coaches to come through with recent experience of playing, and Hearts have provided starts in the past to the likes of Alex McDonald, Sandy Jardine, Sandy Clark, Paul Hegarty and Craig Levein.

Until we get a clearer view of the immediate future, I remain very worried about the perilous state of affairs at Hearts. There is simply no point in building a new stand unless something positive happens on the football front.

A fundamental competence of all successful businesses is to have a disaster recovery plan and a succession plan in place. Actually, looking back at that last sentence, none of these words – ‘competence’, ‘successful’, ‘plan’ – really apply to Hearts, do they? Although unfortunately for us, the word ‘disaster’ most certainly does!