Hearts midfielder Don Cowie is adamant that interim head coach Jon Daly is ready to be handed the reins on a permanent basis.
The club are continuing their search for a successor to Ian Cathro, with ex-England and Newcastle United manager Steve McLaren, former Crystal Palace boss Dougie Freedman and one-time Hearts players Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley all having been linked with the vacancy.
The Tynecastle board are thought to be looking for an experienced hand following Cathro’s disastrous reign but vice-captain Cowie insists 34-year-old Daly would be a popular choice among the squad.
The former Rangers and Dundee United striker guided the team to their first Premiership win of the season at Kilmarnock last weekend and Cowie reckons Daly will be firmly in the frame if he masterminds another result at Rangers this afternoon.
Cowie said: “Of course a win would boost his chances. There’s been a real lift about the place.
“He’s brought that competitive edge back, especially in training.
“I think that showed at Kilmarnock last weekend and if we can get another result I’m sure it will do Jon no harm at all.
“The team is in good hands. Nine months ago when he was caretaker he was quite new to it and he said himself he wasn’t ready at that time.
“But now I see someone who is ready to be Hearts manager. The boys really respect him. I can only go on what I see in training but there’s been a great response to him and long may that continue.
“It’s only natural that big names have been mentioned, Hearts is a massive job.
“We’ve read the names linked to the post and they are big names, but that doesn’t surprise me that people like that want the job.
“But I’m sure Jon is in there, under consideration and a win on Saturday could be massive for him and for us and for the season ahead.”
Rookie manager Cathro won just eight of his 30 games in charge and Cowie, whose signed a one-year contract extension on Thursday, insists last weekend’s success at Kilmarnock has given the squad a huge shot in the arm.
He added: “It was massive because we’ve not won enough games lately and our away form has not been good enough in the last 12 months.
“No matter how we got the win, it was good to do it on a tough surface and to get a clean sheet was great.
“It’s given us a real boost. There’s been a great competitiveness around training right now because those who maybe were not involved now see there’s a clean slate and the ones who were playing have to prove themselves all over again.
“There’s a real hunger about the place and I am really excited for Saturday’s game.”
Cowie, who has made 55 appearances since joining from Wigan in January 2016, is now contracted to the club until summer 2019 and admits he was pleasantly surprised by the club’s desire to prolong his stay in Gorgie.
He added: “I was delighted that the club felt the need at this time to extend the deal. I’m very thankful to (owner) Ann Budge and (director of football) Craig Levein that they wanted to do that. I’ve really enjoyed my time at the club so it was an easy decision.
“I wouldn’t have thought I’d have been seen as priority [to get signed up] but I take it as a big compliment.
“The way I’ve conducted myself since I’ve been at the club, the way I go about my business – I always try and be as professional as I can, so it’s a big boost for me.
“I’ve loved it. I probably didn’t realise how big a club it was until I got here.
“It’s been challenging – there’s no denying that. Results haven’t been good enough.
“But I feel it’s a challenge that I’ve not shied away from. I’ve really tried to stick at it.
“We’re going through another transitional period and I’m looking forward to the future.”
Cowie still believes he has a lot to offer on the pitch but admits he is also working towards a potential career in coaching.
He added: “I’m not getting any younger but I still feel I’m contributing on the pitch.
“I’m going through my coaching badges just now as well, so it’s good knowing that as well as seeing me as part of the football staff, they’re also encouraging me to look at the coaching staff.
“I’ll be doing a bit of coaching here because it goes hand in hand with my badges but my primary focus is playing.
“There will come a point when I need to create time to get on the process of doing my badges, whether that’s in the evenings with the academy or whatever.”