BY ALAN TEMPLE in Dublin – Capital City Press
Falkirk boss Peter Houston has revealed Paul Hartley convinced him to take a punt on Paul Heffernan – after the Bairns suffered an eleventh hour knock-back from David Clarkson.
Houston, who worked with Hartley at Hearts, contacted the Dundee boss as he stepped up his chase for Clarkson, who netted nine goals for the Dens Park outfit last term.
Falkirk appeared destined to capture the 29-year-old, with the player verbally agreeing terms with the Ladbrokes Championship outfit, however a late U-turn saw him return to Motherwell for a second spell at Fir Park.
With Houston forced to move on to ‘Plan B’ in his search for a replacement for Rory Loy, Hartley pointed him in the direction of Heffernan, who scored once in seven outings for the Dee in the second half of last season.
The experienced front-man found the net as a trialist in a 5-0 friendly win over Queen’s Park on Saturday and will be handed another opportunity to impress when Falkirk face Athlone Town this evening.
Houston said: “Heffernan is a goalscorer and was magnificent at KIlmarnock. He didn’t quite hit the heights at Hibs, but sometimes that can happen. It doesn’t make someone a bad player.
“I tried to sign David Clarkson initially. I met David and, although there was other interest, I thought I had him. We had agreed on money and things like that.
“However, he still wanted to play Premiership football and his old club came in for him, so that was that. He was totally honest with me, though, so I admire that and there’s no hard feelings.
“I had spoken to Paul Hartley about David Clarkson and he said ‘listen, if you are looking for a striker, you should be having a look at Paul Heffernan as well’. He spoke really highly of him. He has shown up well and we’ll make a decision after our time over here.”
Falkirk are also running the rule over former Motherwell striker Bob McHugh, who Houston believes could enjoy a similar career renaissance to Loy, who scored 33 goals in two seasons for the Bairns prior to joining Dundee in the close season.
He continued: “Bob McHugh was a right good player at Motherwell, but he needs regular football. Rory Loy didn’t get a crack at Rangers or Kilmarnock and, after a spell at Carlisle, comes back up here and it all clicks.
“If you give these lads a chance sometimes they will kick on. That could be a similar story with Bob, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Falkirk will not be following up their interest in former Southampton youth goalkeeper Chris Johns who has returned to England, while Liam Craig did train with the club last week – but only to keep his fitness up.
Meanwhile, Houston is expecting a fierce contest against Athlone this evening, and reckons it will be the perfect test for him players on their return to training.
“Athlone are mid-season, they will be sharp and games in Ireland are always really competitive,” added Houston. “But I am really happy with the shape our boys have reported back in.”