BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
JOHN SOUTTAR has revealed how Jon Daly helped to shape his career – by kicking lumps out of him as a kid.
And he has no doubt the rookie coach is the right man to knock Hearts into shape.
Souttar was a fresh faced 16-year-old at Dundee United when Daly was the skipper at Tannadice and the towering striker did not hesitate to give the teenager a taste of what to expect in the rough-and-tumble of Scottish football.
He still fondly recalls the regular battles between Daly’s veterans and United’s gifted band of youngsters, including Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Gauld and £8 million man Andrew Robertson, during training.
Four years later and Daly is now his gaffer, seeking to stabilise the Jambos following the departure of Ian Cathro.
Souttar said: “I took a few bashes from him! We used to play young versus old on a Friday and I would be directly up against him. It was a bit of a lesson getting bumped and bashed around.
“You want big characters like that around to go to bat for you and the club, and he was definitely one of them.
“Did I kick him back? He was club captain at the time so it wasn’t the best idea to try it, but I gave as good as I got.
“To be fair, we had a lot of good young players back then with Stuart [Armstrong], Andy [Robertson], Goodie [David Goodwillie], Johnny Russell and the like. We had a decent team. We always had the legs on big Jon.
“No, he was a great captain. He was very good with the boys, and the younger lads. He was a big presence. For me growing up, he was a great example.”
Souttar, 20, is adamant Daly, who only hung up his boots 18 months ago, is the same dominating, inspirational figure now he has made the switch to the dugout.
The Irishman is set to remain at the helm for Saturday’s trip to Kilmarnock and, at least, next week’s encounter against Rangers.
Souttar continued: “Everyone respects Jon. Even when he was Hearts 20s manager he was a big presence about the place. It’s tough when you’ve bad results but Jon has come in and picked everyone up.
“I know the leadership qualities he’s got, he was always there for me and for the boys at United and it’s been good under him so far. Training has been good and everyone has enjoyed working with him. We just need to make sure we get a positive result for him on Saturday now.
“I think all the boys are treating him like they would any manager – with a lot of respect. We will do our utmost to get a result for him on Saturday because everyone wants him to do well.
“He was a good player and he’s a good coach as well. I know there’s a lot of good managers being mentioned, but he’s got a wealth of experience. He is as good as anyone.
“If we could win our next two games it would stand him in good stead no matter what happens.”
Sandwiched between visits to both halves of the Old Firm, Souttar is acutely aware of the importance of returning from Rugby Park with all three points, regardless of the managerial uncertainty at the club.
He added: “Hearts are expected to go to places like this and win and that’s the aim for Saturday.
“Hearts are a big club and when you sign you understand there is a demand on you. You see how much the fans are involved and how much they put in to the club. We have a job to do for them, no matter the situation.”