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John McGlynn <-auth MOIRA GORDON auth-> Calum Murray
Barr Darren [J Russell 31]
4 of 023 Callum Paterson 21LC A

Idol Rudi Skacel spells danger to Hearts as ex-striker lines up for Dundee United

Published on Wednesday 31 October 2012 00:00

WHEN the draw for the Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-finals was made, John McGlynn might have hoped to see Rudi Skacel involved. What he wouldn’t have envisaged was the Czech midfielder lining up against his own men, another potential match-winner in the Dundee United ranks.

The Gorgie club travel to Tannadice tonight looking for back-to-back victories against Peter Houston’s men and the opportunity to snare a quick 
return to Hampden, the scene of their summer Scottish Cup jubilations. The hullaballoo stoked up by Skacel’s decision to adopt the No 51 means there is no likelihood of anyone forgetting the part the former Hearts star played in that 5-1 triumph over Hibs or the danger he can pose.

Denied the chance to have him re-enlist at Tynecastle thanks to the signing ban imposed following the recent late payment of wages, the men he teamed up with last term and trained alongside until signing for United last week now have the task of taming him and the rest of the men in tangerine.

“It’s going to be strange, really strange, to see him in a Dundee United strip,” said Hearts midfielder Mehdi Taouil, who does nonetheless approve of the number he chose to adorn it with. “Everybody felt like he was coming back here but unfortunately that couldn’t happen.”

But if it was a blow for Hearts, it could serve as a massive boost for United. If the Edinburgh side have struggled to find solid footing in the current league campaign, United have also been dogged by inconsistency, with injuries to key players such as Gary Mackay-Steven and Jon Daly undermining them further. But if anyone can lift spirits around Tannadice and help spark a revival, it’s Skacel, acknowledges McGlynn. “Without doubt, he is infectious. But, with the greatest respect to Rudi – he’s a great guy, a living legend at Hearts and the fans love him and I’m sure he loves Hearts football club – but it would be wrong to think that Dundee United is now a one-man band and it’s all about Rudi Skacel.

“I wouldn’t want to be side-tracked because there is no guarantee that Rudi will start the game or even participate, so we have to take care of Johnny Russell and Gardyne, or Gary Mackay-Steven if he was to come back, or Rankin or Miller or Flood or Daly or Watson, or Gunning or whoever.”

Taouil, however, is wary of his former team-mate. Referring to him as a ‘real Jambo’, he adds: “He will definitely be a big danger to us. Everybody knows what Rudi is capable of, so we will have to be careful. Maybe I will come up against him and will have to try and stop him. He’s a good friend; a good lad, but when you’re on the pitch you forget it’s Rudi in front of you.”

Only one point separates the teams in the SPL and while Houston’s men still have two games in hand on this evening’s opponents, the guests won the most recent head-to-head 3-0.

McGlynn believes the lift 
received from that victory, along with the desire for more cup success could be the key to Hearts progressing, “It helps us in that we hadn’t won there in a long time but we managed to get that monkey off our back. It might have been a heavier burden going there for this one if we still hadn’t won. Hopefully that gives us confidence and 
belief but at the same time I’m sure it is still in the memory of Dundee United and they will take some motivation from it as well, so it can work both ways.”

Hearts have used adversity as well as success to fuel them. But while a trip to another cup final would help ease the financial worries and refocus the mind on footballing rather than off-field issues, McGlynn, who reports no fresh injury concerns, believes the greatest incentive is always silverware and medals.

While he believes there would be even more excitement generated by a chase for the league title, claiming stadia would be full, he admits that remains in the realms of the hypothetical while Celtic remain in the SPL. And while there 
remains a thrill in jostling for second place, the cups present the best chance of emerging top of the heap.

“Most of our players, although not all of them, played in the Scottish Cup final and have got a winner’s medal and I was saying to them that you can’t get enough of those wee winners’ medals, no matter who you are. So, they have an opportunity to get back to Hampden very, very quickly and that has to be great motivation for the players who have been there and also for the guys who missed out, the guys who didn’t get in the starting XI. So, who didn’t get a medal and who wants to get another medal?

“That has to be motivation in itself but, of course, if you do get to a semi-final, there are big crowds and the money is quartered so then there is a financial pay-out. But from a football player’s point of view, it doesn’t matter how much you put the bonus up, and I’m not suggesting we have, it doesn’t mean they will go out and try harder. I found that out at Raith Rovers – it doesn’t work.

“The players will give 100 per cent, not because the football club needs the money, but 
because they would go out and do that naturally anyway.”

Taken from the Scotsman

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