BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
JON DALY insists he will continue to speak his mind as Hearts’ interim head coach buried the hatchet with Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers.
The Irishman reacted angrily last weekend when Rodgers questioned the Jambos’ management structure and recruitment, stating that former gaffer Ian Cathro was always ‘up against it’ at Tynecastle.
Daly hit back after their 4-1 defeat at Parkhead by describing the comments as ‘absolutely disgraceful’, gaining plenty of plaudits among the Hearts fanbase for his staunch defence of the club.
He said: “If something is said that I think is out of order, I’m going to speak my mind, I’m going to tell them – I’m going to say what is right. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re the Celtic manager or the Alloa manager.
“It’s about protecting your players and your club, making sure that you’re not just getting kicked in the stomach because things aren’t going well.
“I was the same as a player. As a captain, I stood up for my players. I always asked questions and, if someone wasn’t happy or I saw someone being mistreated, I spoke my mind and made it known that we weren’t happy with it.
“I’ve not spoken to Brendan because I didn’t see him after the game but I’m sure when I see him again, down the line, we’ll brush it under the carpet and move on. That’s what you do.”
Daly says that straight-talking streak would extend to director of football Craig Levein, with the 35-year-old determined to be his own man during his tenure in the dugout – which is set to extend until, at least, next Saturday’s encounter against Rangers.
He smiled: “Of course I would tell Craig if I didn’t agree with something. You have to speak your mind and get your point across. You can’t just sit there and take things. If Craig said something I didn’t agree with I’d let him know I’m not happy – maybe not as bluntly as I did to Brendan Rodgers!”
Daly’s desire to defend Hearts is only exacerbated by his feeling that they have become a punching bag following the disastrous reign of Cathro and repeated criticism of Levein’s perceived interference in first-team affairs.
That is a source of frustration for the temporary boss, who believes Levein’s advice is welcome and far from intrusive.
Daly said: “Obviously Craig gets a hard time, but the club is structured in such a way that Craig is there as support for the football department. We use him however we see fit.
“People talk about the note passing etc, but that was stuff the previous management team wanted done. They wanted myself, Andy Kirk, Liam Fox sat up with Craig watching the game. If we saw patterns in the game that we thought could help, we would come down and tell the bench.
“That’s something that, if I got the job, I would continue to use because I think it’s invaluable. I know a lot of other clubs use it, they just don’t do it with a director of football. They have members of the coaching staff sitting up in the stand.
“I think it is very unfair on Robbie Neilson and Ian Cathro to suggest they were worked from the back. They weren’t. They had full control over the team and players they wanted in.”
Meanwhile, Daly believes the calibre of candidates for the vacancy at Tynecastle sums up the stature, and attractiveness, of Hearts.
Steven McClaren, Edgar Davids, Dougie Freedman and Owen Coyle are among the candidates for the post, with the Jambos beginning the interview process this week.
Daly, who confirmed that want-away winger Jamie Walker will return to the match-day squad against Kilmarnock tomorrow, continued: “The names linked have been very impressive, but am I surprised? No, not at all.
“This is a fantastic football club that wants to get back to being a Europa League team, so it’s understandable that big name managers are throwing their hat in the ring.”