BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ANN BUDGE believes new head coach Ian Cathro should be afforded a year of grace before he is judged – as the Hearts owner admitted she has been “amazed” by the reaction to his appointment.
The 30-year-old became the youngest boss in Scottish football earlier this month when he left his role as assistant to Rafa Benitez at Newcastle to become Robbie Neilson’s successor at Tynecastle.
Youthful and with no top-level playing pedigree, the decision to plump for Cathro set tongues wagging, with the likes of Kris Boyd, Jamie Fullarton and Stephen Craigan all questioning his suitability for the role.
She said: “I think he’s a fantastic appointment, so I’m pleased that there has been so much attention, although it has blown me away. For a couple of weeks, every time you switched on the radio, they were talking about Ian Cathro.
“Every time you picked up a paper or looked at a website, it was all about Ian. It got to the point actually where you said ‘hang on a minute, there must be something else going on in football!’
“Change doesn’t happen often across the football world but I was amazed that everybody was so amazed! I suppose he is young, but it came second nature to me to think ‘right, where are we going, what is our plan?’
“It was all about training coaches and bringing young coaches through. I didn’t really think of the alternative whereas other people probably did.”
Cathro has endured a baptism of fire, losing his first fixture 2-0 against Rangers before his team were jeered off the pitch by irate supporters following their underwhelming 1-1 draw against Partick Thistle on Saturday.
However, Budge is anything but reactionary and has urged supporters to give the new head coach plenty of time to make his mark.
She continued: “In any normal business, when you have a change of senior management, I think it is generally recognised that it can take around a year before the manager starts to make a big difference.
“Things that happen in that first year can often be down to the previous manager. I don’t see why football should be any different.
“The way I see it is: Ian has come in and there is not a lot of difference he is going to make between now and January.
“He will look, learn and make some suggestions. Then you have January for him to sit back and analyse what he needs and beyond that he can start making a difference. He’s got to be given a chance.”
Budge was addressing the media in the aftermath of Hearts’ 110th annual general meeting, held in the Gorgie Suite at Tynecastle in front of around 400 shareholders.
Naturally, Cathro’s appointment was among the key topics, as well as whether he would be handed a transfer kitty in January, with Budge later confirming: “There are plans and a number of changes they would like to make in January. We won’t blow the budget but we know what we want to do.”
However, the majority of questions from the floor related to the renovation of Tynecastle, with the groundwork now being completed for the construction of a new Main Stand.
Work on the stadium, which will include a new pitch being laid for the first time in 19 YEARS, is slated to be completed by September, with Hearts currently in talks with the SPFL with regards to playing their first few games of next season away from home.
Should they qualify for Europe, however, Hearts will need to find an alternate venue for their ‘home’ legs – and Budge admits that, if not for tribalism, Hibernian’s Easter Road would fit the bill. As it is, Murrayfield is the more likely option.
She added: “Murrayfield is certainly an option and one that we will explore.
“Easter Road? That is a tricky one. With a purely common sense business hat on, it might be a good option, but looking at it from the supporters’ point of view – I really have to take that into account. I’m not sure I’m quite brave enough to go there yet!
“Logic says it should be an option. We should be helping each other out. I’ve not raised the question.”