Andrew McKinlay speaks to the media22 June 2023
Hearts Chief Executive sat down with the press to discuss the events of the past 48-hours following the departure of Robbie Neilson and Lee McCulloch from the management team, and the short to long term future of the managerial role with Steven Naismith taking charge on an interim basis until the end of the season.
On the decision to make a change, Andrew said:
“It was a really difficult decision, as we’ve said. A lot of discussion around is it the right decision and obviously we want to give ourselves the best opportunity in those last seven games of finishing third in the league. We know what comes with that and it’s very important to us.
“I think it’s fair to say that over the last number of weeks - it’s not been a knee-jerk or gut decision that was made on the back of one result – over the last few weeks the results have been poor. But also the performances have left quite a lot to be desired. We got to a stage where it was hard to see how we were going to be able to turn it around.
“A crucial question all of us on the Board asked ourselves was – an easy question but a very difficult answer – was it better to stay as we are and see how we get on for those last seven games, or was it better to make a change now and give ourselves a better opportunity? As I said, a very, very difficult question to answer but we took the decision that we took and we go forward.
“I think it’s important at this stage that I make it very clear my thanks to Robbie and to Lee. Robbie came back to the club around the same time that I joined the club so I’ve worked very closely with him, developed a good relationship with him. These decisions are never nice but it makes it even harder when it’s someone that you like and respect and have a lot of time for, and I have a lot of time for Robbie. I really want to put on record my thanks for everything that he’s done for the club over the last period.”
On the importance of the next seven games, he said:
“This morning I was at Oriam and I addressed the players. I very rarely speak to the players, that’s not my job, but I spoke to them before I handed over to Steven and his team. The only message I put across to them is that I’ve watched this group of players this season and I’ve seen them perform magnificently on occasions, so I know they’re capable of it. I really know they’re capable of it, that’s all I said to them.
“I said that I don’t know what will motivate you guys for the rest of the season but do it for yourselves, have pride and get us back to where we believe we should be. That was my message to them. I genuinely believe we have a group of players that should be in third place and I believe we’ll get back to third place by the end of the season.”
On the future of the manager’s role and Steven taking over until the end of the season, Andrew said:
“It’s been very interesting for me. In the last 48-hours since the statement was made, within 30 minutes you have CVs in your email. We’ve been inundated already with CVs, with phonecalls, etc. We’ll take our time with that, we’ll look at them all. We don’t just sit back and think that now the manager is gone we need to now look.
“The Sporting Director and I have, constantly throughout Robbie’s time, talk about (what would happen) if Robbie went tomorrow. Now, the hope was always that if Robbie went it was because he was going on to something better, on his own terms, but if he went tomorrow who might we look at? So we would always talk about names, throw them around. Some of them are available, some of them aren’t. Some of them become available but things change and you’re always going through that in your head.
“We have views in our mind on what sort of manager we would like. We are doing work and we have been doing work around which managers are out there and might fit what we would like as a manager. We’ve also obviously got Steven, who is the incumbent until the end of the season. He has an opportunity to show to us why he should be that person longer term, and that’s entirely up to him to do. He is, as you can imagine, incredibly appreciative of the opportunity and very excited by the chance that he now has.
“It’s up to Steven to show us how much of a serious contender he is. He’s been put in charge and it’s a massive opportunity for him. I think anyone who is given that opportunity is always going to be in contention but it would be silly of us to say that we were going to wait until after the seven games and it’s not worked so we have to parallel things at the moment and look at various alternatives, which you would expect us to do. Steven is absolutely focused on the her and now and doing the best that he can for the next seven games, and rightly so. That’s what I would expect of him.”
On a message to the supporters, he said:
“It's massively important that the fans get behind Steven and the team and I don’t have any doubt that they won’t. I’ve no doubt that the fans will give us their full backing. We’ve got a great set of fans and we go to Easter Road on Saturday where they will be in full voice and fully behind the team, I have absolutely no doubt about it.”
You can watch Andrew’s press conference in full below.