BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
DON COWIE has assured Hearts supporters that they will be richly-rewarded for their patience after likening the philosophy and demands of boss Ian Cathro to his Celtic counter-part Brendan Rodgers.
The Cathro era in Gorgie has been a slow burner to date, with the 30-year-old guiding his side to just one victory in five Ladbrokes Premiership fixtures, albeit that was an impressive 4-0 demolition of Kilmarnock.
A 1-0 defeat against Aberdeen on Friday night – which should have been more comprehensive, but for the profligacy of the visitors – was perhaps the most chastening reverse so far, with the Jambos barely laying a glove on a side they were above in the standings under Robbie Neilson.
Reflecting on a forgettable evening for the hosts, Cowie acknowledges that it will take time for Cathro to put his own stamp on what was an occasionally thrilling, but often functional, Hearts side under Neilson – including a focus on possession, movement and “controlled” attack.
While an adjustment for some players within the squad, they are orders that Cowie understands well after playing under former Liverpool manager Rodgers at Watford during the 2008/09 campaign.
“We have done little bits with the new manager and he has re-iterated that there’s more to come,” explained the former Scotland internationalist. “It is only natural that he has his own ideas and this [break] gives us time to work on those.
“Sometimes you will get managers who are rigid in the way they want to play, but the first thing he said was that he wants us to play football. That can be difficult on nights like Friday but, ultimately, that is the way he wants to play.
“It is all about coaching it properly. I worked under Brendan Rodgers at Watford and he was very similar, he was all about rotation and movement. Some people might think you are making a pass for the sake of it, but it is to move the opposition about and create space. That’s what we need to do.
“That will take time because, in order to play good football, you need plenty of rotation, lots of movement. It is about getting used to having that freedom to make it work. We have shown during spells against Dundee and Kilmarnock that there is optimism and potential.
“You need to work hand in hand [with the fans] They want to see attacking football and putting the opposition on the back foot.
“We saw when we beat Rangers 2-0 in Robbie Neilson’s last match, when we do that, the atmosphere is incredible. It is about finding that balance between that, but also being controlled and passing the ball.
“It will take time to get used to it and get it right, but I’m sure the fans are aware that it is a new man coming in and we are trying to work to his guidance and the things he wants to do. I’ve worked with him for a few weeks now and it is a great time to be here.”
Hearts could be forgiven for rueing the upcoming hiatus – Hearts do not play again until they face Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup on January 22 – as they will be forced to ruminate on a damaging defeat against the Dons.
However, Cowie believes the winter break could prove invaluable as Cathro looks to convey more of his ideas and tweaks – something there has been precious little time for during a run of five games in less than three weeks since he arrived.
“This has been a hectic December, so with some more time until our next game, the manager has the chance to work with us properly for a sustained period,” continued Cowie. “We can train hard and kick on for the second half of the season.
“We will aim to start 2017 well. We have a tough start, with testing games coming up but it really is all positive. January also gives the manager a chance to get his own players in, which could help us too.
“There was a real buzz among the fans when we went second in the league, so it is disappointing we haven’t managed to build on that and the results have been poor. We’ve let ourselves down, but that’s not for the want of trying or effort, it’s just about finding consistency in the New Year.”