Hearts head coach Ian Cathro witnessed at first hand how the ‘magical’ powers of the Valencia’s iconic stadium drove the team beyond their limits.
And as the 30-year-old prepares to make his home dugout debut in tomorrow’s Ladbrokes Premiership visit of Patrick Thistle, the former Valencia and Newcastle United assistant manager has said he is looking forward to working with the Hearts supporters to create an atmosphere that can inspire the side.
Regarded as a footballing cauldron in Europe, the Estadio de Mestalla is not for the faint-hearted and Cathro recalls how the 55,000 capacity arena had the ability to strike fear into the opposition.
Newcastle’s St James’ Park was just as daunting and even though Tynecastle is on a smaller scale, Cathro is excited about the prospect of harnessing the support of Hearts fans.
Cathro said: “This is a different level, which has to be respected, but I honestly feel very similar about this club.
“It’s not just an ordinary run of the mill club, I really feel that it is a special club with special connections and hopefully we can try and create some special environments for the team to play in and for the team to enjoy.
“The Mestalla is fantastic, magical – really powerful to the extent you would arrive ten minutes before kick off and you could look across to each other and think, ‘It’s a tough game, but we’ll be okay!’
“It had that feeling, equally St James’ in certain moments could become a real strong place and there is a massive love for football. Maybe with different takes on it because you’ve got cultural aspects and different feelings to different things but two really, really special, powerful places.”
Cathro, whose first game in charge of Hearts ended in a 2-0 defeat to Rangers last weekend, added: “Sometimes you could actually see a difference in the players at certain points in the game.
“If the stadium gets up, you can see some more high intensity running and tackling. It’s human nature. And we’re humans.
“Teams who do well have strong home records. It’s important.
“Afterwards, you know that 50,000 people helped. And that’s important.
“So we want to have 17,000 people helping us here – and next year we want to have 20,000 people helping us.
“We need to give them enough to keep committing their energy, their feeling, their support and their positivity to the team.
“It needs to go both ways. And we can start that with what we do.”
Cathro’s dugout debut at Ibrox could have ended differently had Don Cowie’s goal not been wrongly disallowed for offside.
The strike came when the clash was still goal-less and despite being pragmatic about the decision, Cathro is hoping his team are not left lamenting more controversial calls in future.
He added: “It’s onside and it should have been a goal. It wasn’t, which is somebody’s mistake.
“I can’t train the linesman for this weekend, I can only work with our players and make improvements that we want to make – and we also make mistakes.
“The focus has to be on us improving the things we can improve as quickly and as clearly as possible. You put your faith in the officials to do the best job they can, accepting sometimes there will be mistakes, but not too any.
“It is something that’s difficult to accept but has to be accepted on the basis that it’s not an overly frequent thing.”