HEARTS always wanted to follow in Rangers' footsteps but surely not like this.

With Vladimir Romanov paying exorbitant wages in the hope of one day splitting or even overhauling the Old Firm, there was always a chance his ambition would stretch beyond his resources. And so it has come to pass. Hearts now face a £450,000 tax bill for unpaid VAT and PAYE that threatens their very existence.

Rangers, of course, have already gone head first over the precipice. They have recovered, in a way, but it has been a fraught experience and not one Ally McCoist would wish on anyone, certainly not John McGlynn, the Hearts manager, whom he respects and admires.

Loading article content

McCoist now finds himself in the position of being able to offer advice and insight with the aid of hindsight. Rangers, he makes clear, are not completely out the woods yet as they take their first tentative steps under new ownership, but sufficient time has passed since the darkest days for the Rangers manager to look back at it all and give his thoughts on what was going through his head at the time.

The hope is that by recounting his experiences he might offer come guidance or comfort to McGlynn, his staff, players and the Hearts supporters as they peer warily into the future and wonder just what might lie ahead for their beleaguered club.

"There were a couple of low points, without doubt," McCoist said. "Going into administration on February 14 was a savage blow because it's like a bang, a reality check. I was probably kidding myself on, thinking it wouldn't happen even though I was told there was a possibility of it happening. For some reason, you don't think it is going to happen. Maybe it is because you are involved with the club. You see the club, you look at the support and you just think 'that's impossible'. It was a real shock to the system, as was, without doubt, the exodus of players. I think we had eight outfield players for pre-season training.

"My working life turned into turmoil, for want of a better word. But at the same time, you just have to handle it and deal with it as best you can. The fact we are where we are at the moment has certainly given us all a degree of comfort and satisfaction and I am certainly hopeful we will never take our eye off the ball again."

During the worst times, McCoist and his coaching staff turned to dark humour to see them through. He hopes their counterparts at Hearts will find similar ways of coping with their troubles.

"If you don't laugh you are finished. Deadly serious, the gallows humour got us through," McCoist said. "I mean that. We used to come in and genuinely shake our heads in disbelief at some of the things that were happening, but have a laugh, as you do, and then just get on with the work. And that's one of the good things you can do when you are working with a group of people who are having a tough time.

"You can bounce off each other. We weren't exactly Michael McIntyre at the Apollo but everyone had their moments. It does help you, that kind of camaraderie and spirit."

Lee Wallace also showed concern for Hearts' plight yesterday. The defender came through the youth ranks to make his mark in the Hearts first team youth ranks and hopes his old club will survive to fight another day.

"I'm very sympathetic towards them as I spent a long time there and got my football apprenticeship at Hearts," he said. "I've got a lot of friends there, ex-team-mates, and I feel bad about their situation. I hope the men at the top can try to resolve it sooner rather than later.

"The players will just be focusing on training and games. If it's worst-case scenario for them let's hope they'll be all right. Who knows what's going to happen over the next fortnight or so. Let's hope it's resolved soon."

Wallace says McGlynn is one of the best coaches he has ever worked under and believes he would be the man to take Hearts forward if they survive this latest setback. "I learned an awful lot from John," the Scotland internationalist said. "When I moved from under-17s to under-19s it was a crucial period in my development and whether I'd make it full-time or not, and he was great.

"He'll be great for Hearts if they can continue to run. They've lost a number of players, cut the wage bill, and youngsters are coming through. If there's a guy who can help the youngsters move forward it's definitely John McGlynn."