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Friday, 9 May 2014
DON’T BREAK JAMBO GARY’S HEART, ANN
BY ANDY RITCHIE THE buzz is that Craig Levein is set to return to Tynecastle as manager under the new regime.
If so, it will be an act of sheer madness. Hearts are on a roll under Gary Locke and the signs are extremely encouraging.
Locke is a Jambo through and through. I’m sure if you cut him he would bleed maroon.
He knows the club inside, out and he’s respected. The fans want him to stay and, more importantly, so do the players.
Several of them have come out publicly to pledge their support and that tells you the manager has the respect of the dressing room.
Consider the facts. Hearts were behind the eight ball right from the very start. Financial turmoil, the threat of liquidation, a 15 point deduction for going into administration, and a signing ban before a ball had even been kicked.
What hope did they have of avoiding the drop? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. It was always just a question of when their fate would be sealed.
That must have been extremely demoralising for all concerned. The psychological damage of knowing they had to win six matches just to put points on the board must have been huge.
It was as if once the death sentence had been pronounced all that remained was for the date of execution to be set.
But Hearts earned several reprieves before being forced to bow to the inevitable and that says much about the spirit in the camp.
It would have been easy for the players to have thrown in the towel and given it up as a bad job. Instead, they rolled their sleeves up and tried to achieve the virtually impossible and Locke must have been the inspirational force.
Just imagine if Hearts had begun their current remarkable revival six games sooner. We might have been talking about the Great Escape.
As it is, Hearts are heading for the Championship with all guns blazing and Rangers will do well to avoid a bullet or two next season.
I am not saying Hearts will sweep straight back into the top flight, but they’ll certainly be a handful.
Circumstances forced Locke to give the youngsters their head and they are a year older and wiser and less prone to naivety and basic errors.
Young players are also resilient and the recent winning run will have boosted their confidence no end.
There’s no shortage of talent either as far as I can see. Locke clearly has an eye for spotting potential and he’s exploited that talent.
So, what would be the point in changing the manager before Locke has even had a chance to test himself on a more even playing field?
He deserves another season at least for the splendid job he has done during one of the most difficult and testing periods in Hearts’ history.
So, my message to Ann Budge is this: Stick with what you have rather than risk fresh instability.
Talk of instability, what the hell’s going on at my old club Morton?
One truly did fly over the cuckoo’s nest when Kenny Shiels oversaw a humiliating 10-2 defeat at Hamilton.
Kenny fancies himself as a psychologist. After that result the entire management team and players should have been forced to consult a shrink.
At least Shiels did the honourable thing and fell on his sword - or at least we are told he resigned. But it was clearly one of those ones - jump before you’re pushed!
The signing of Garry O’Connor alone was grounds enough for being given the sack. Those amongst the older generation of Morton fans who questioned my fitness and training methods must be misty eyed at the memory of the goals I scored when they look at O’Connor.
But while Shiels was culpable, players and officials must also shoulder part of the blame for the club’s dramatic decline – even the chairman.
Douglas Rae has done a lot for the club and deserves due credit from the people of Greenock. Without his financial support, Morton might well have ceased to exist.
But he appointed Shiels in the first place and bought into Kenny’s mumbo jumbo so can’t escape criticism.
But I’ve heard on the grapevine that Morton is going to remain full-time next season and that’s heartening if it is the case.
However, I fear for the long term future of the club, for they aren’t going to find it easy to claw their way out of League One.
Attendances have plummeted in the wake of this season’s results and it’s going to be extremely difficult regaining the confidence and support of the locals.