Hearts defender John Souttar has thanked Robbie Neilson for reviving his career – and could be about to welcome the man who made him one of the hottest prospects in Scottish football.
Neilson sealed his switch to MK Dons on Thursday evening and the Tynecastle club have now turned their attention to landing highly-rated Newcastle United coach Ian Cathro.
That appointment would be great news for Souttar after the 20-year-old benefitted from Cathro’s innovative coaching methods when the 30-year-old was the head of youth academy at Tannadice.
Souttar made the first team breakthrough at United at just 16, while Sporting Lisbon ace Ryan Gauld also developed under Cathro and the Jambos centre half, who has shone since signing for Hearts in January, admits his former youth coach was hugely influential during his early years.
Asked if former Valencia and Rio Ave assistant manager Cathro started it all off for him, Souttar, replied: “Yeah, when I was younger I always wanted to play with the ball and I think a lot of people were part of that.
“I did come through the academy, which everyone knows, and every single part of my development has played a part in the player I am today.
“That’s something I have always had in my time at United, that ability and willingness to take the ball out but Robbie has added that bit of steel to my game and you were always learning under him.
“Whoever comes in I will try to learn off them and make myself the best player I can, keep learning every single day and get better and better.
“I try to learn even one thing in every training session and if i can keep learning then hopefully that will take me where I want to be.”
Souttar has admitted that he stagnated in a United team that were heading for relegation from the Premiership last season prior to Hearts shelling out a six-figure transfer fee for his services nearly a year go.
But the Scotland Under-21 internationalist is back showing the kind of for form that made him a £600,000 signing target for Sunderland three years ago.
Souttar even caught the eye of Derby County manager Steve McLaren in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Rangers and admits Neilson has played a huge part in getting his career back on track.
The 20-year-old added: “He’s done a lot. He took me when I was in a struggling team at Dundee United when we weren’t doing the best. He took a gamble on me, paid money for me and he has improved me a lot as a player, defensively, understanding the game and game knowledge. I’ve learned a lot from him, he has been brilliant for me.
“I think he has taught me so much. Every manager I have had has taught me something and I think the gaffer has taught me loads on the training ground, loads of individual stuff and, as a young centre half it has been brilliant that I have had him to coach me.”
Souttar’s maturity on and off the pitch belies his age and the Aberdeen-born player admits he will not get flustered at the prospect of having to impress someone new.
He added: “I’ve had a lot of managers in my time, five already, so you just have to impress every manager – whoever it is.
“We will see what happens in the future.”