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!


10 Replies to “Who Can Rescue Hearts?”

  • He’s working for Scotland. Supposedly, the coaching thing was the start of the fall-out between Elvis and Vlad. Think you make a good point SH, we need someone who has played the game to coach the youngsters – Frail is ideal for that, but not a first team coach. Don’t think it will be Neil McCann though, as last I heard he was having a medical with Falkirk today.

  • McCann actually looked really sharp in the testimonial on Sunday – really hungry for the ball. I know it was essentially a bounce game but I’d like to see the guy finishing his career on a high – he’s had a few bad breaks recently. Btw good article SH – agree with what you’re suggesting to an extent, but can’t help thinking that we either need an experienced manager, or perhaps one like you suggest with a cornerstone of experienced players (guys in the age-bracket you specified).

  • Hmmm.. I’d like to think he’s the man, Mr H. And until the “divorce”, he was ideally positioned to start coaching at Hearts, wasn’t he ? But after all that’s happened, I can’t see him coming near us while the regime is in control. David Weir is another who is at the age where he needs to decide if coaching is for him. Without an internal senior player or assistant coach, I just think we are extremely vulnerable. Looking to your other article, could this be a deliberate move by the regime to de-stablise the club ?

  • Yes, I heard that too, SJ. So Falkirk are bringing in McNamara, Bullen and MCann ? Sounds like Yogi has decided he needs the sort of experience that we need !!

  • This is an easy one. Vladimir Romanov can save Hearts, leave the team alone and getting in a decent manager should sort things out. For goodness sake someone buy him a copy of Football Manager and get it over with.

  • Yep … even heard an interview on the radio with him… saying how prefessional Falkirk were in the negotiations. He’s a Jambo, I believe, too !!!

  • Now that McCann has left, Hearts are even more exposed, with no assistance for Frail. “Crunch time” really is around the corner – either the mythical new manager (plus assistant) is about to be brought in … or else Frail will be confirmed, in which case its surely essential that someone experienced comes in to help him. The suspense is almost too much …..

  • I reckon the way things are going Neilson will be the assistant with Frail manager and Gary Glen first team coach… If we’re lucky my little cousin, who is 4, will take the Director of Football position. In all seriousness I want Jefferies back as at least then we will know who is picking the team.

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