BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
JON DALY is determined to stake his claim for the Hearts hot-seat after insisting he is ready to make the step up to head coach – but joked that he will be tempted to retire if he can mastermind a win over Celtic’s Invincibles.
The 34-year-old has been named interim boss following the departure of Ian Cathro and will oversee preparations for their daunting Premiership opener against Celtic alongside fellow coaches Austin MacPhee and Liam Fox.
A host of experienced names have been linked with the vacancy at Tynecastle, including Steven Pressley, Paul Hartley and Peter Houston, but Daly knows he would become impossible to ignore if he can steady the ship in Gorgie and stun the Hoops.
The former Dundee United and Rangers star joined the Jambos coaching staff as under-20s boss in January 2016 and has previously been caretaker for one senior fixture, overseeing the 2-2 draw against Ross County last December following the departure of Robbie Neilson.
Daly said: “If I do well, and if the players respond to us, then that gives me a chance.
“If I don’t get the job then I’ll go back and work with the 20s which I really enjoy doing.
“I am sure there are people putting their name in. It’s up to the club to make sure they get the right person, whether it’s from inside the club or not, but this is an opportunity for me to go and enjoy myself and try to stamp my authority on the team.
“People talk about experienced managers but I’ve been in the game for 20 years, albeit as a player for 90 per cent of that time.”
Daly has been given a baptism of fire with a testing encounter against a Celtic side that has not lost a competitive domestic fixture since May 11, 2016. However, he has urged his embattled players to view the fixture as the opportunity to begin the campaign with a clean slate following a tumultuous week.
He continued: “If I won at Celtic Park I would probably just pack it in!
“We understand that it is a really difficult start and really tough game, but with the players that have been brought into the club – added to the ones who were already here – there is a good core of experience and it is a really good group.
“We believe we can get at Celtic, then it is down to being compact and then taking our chances when they come along.
“I said to the players, this is an opportunity for everyone at the club to have a clean slate.”
Daly hinted that an unwillingness to adapt his football philosophy was key to Cathro’s downfall and intends to go back to basics, while lifting morale in Gorgie.
He continued: “Ian Cathro has his ideas and he sticks to those ideas. For me, that can be a strength – but also a weakness. You must be able to adapt and change when things aren’t working.
“I have learned from my experience as a player that you can’t always give players what they want. If you give them an inch, they take a mile.
“And if you don’t give them anything, or are just constantly giving them information, then it can feel relentless and players can switch off.
“The training has to have an element of fun and an element of competitiveness so that, when it does come to match day, they know what to expect.
“Yes, the way you play is important but it comes down to results and doing what it takes to win games. It comes down to making sure that, if were are going to lose, then we are not a pushover.
“We need to work hard and make sure we are in the other team’s faces and all the things you would expect from Hearts.”