BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
AUSTIN MacPHEE has revealed he snubbed the opportunity to become the SFA performance director because joining Ian Cathro at Hearts was the more “exciting” proposition.
The 37-year-old was the front-runner to be named Brian McClair’s successor, charged with implementing the “Project Brave” blueprint and overseeing the future of the game in Scotland.
However, he chose instead to sign up for the Hearts revolution as assistant head coach to Cathro – and is adamant the Jambos could be on the cusp of something special.
And, while respectful to the SFA’s overtures, he insists a switch to Gorgie was more appealing than the more long-term role at Hampden.
He revealed: “‘The magnitude of the job of technical director or performance for a federation is a very, very long term project.
“Short term, one of the roles is to deliver Project Brave, which has been well documented. But my ideas for it were long term.
“However, I felt that the combination of being allowed stay with Northern Ireland and work for someone who I really respect in Ian [Cathro] was the path I find more exciting.
“I was at Tynecastle last week at the Rangers game. You see the direction Hearts is going and I feel we can achieve things that maybe other people don’t think we can achieve.
“Always having ambitions that are maybe just a little bit further than you can reach is important. This whole club has that, whether it is Ann [Budge], Craig [Levein] or certainly Ian. I just felt it was a journey I didn’t want to miss out on.”
MacPhee was keen to emphasise that his loyalty to Michael O’Neill – the man who made him “acceptable” in football – was another major factor, as he will juggle hearts commitments with his role as Northern Ireland coach.
He continued: “With Northern Ireland, I felt a great loyalty to Michael O’Neill. He has given me the opportunity to be acceptable in football . . . although I’ve still not cut my hair!
“He’s given me a lot of support, guidance and opportunity. And we are currently second in our World Cup qualifying group.
“There are targets at Hearts – which I know Ian and I have – and there is a target at Northern Ireland, which is obviously qualifying for the World Cup. It would be a lot to miss out on as a young coach.”