BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CALLUM PATERSON has leapt to the defence of “incredible” Hearts head coach Ian Cathro – and told his teammates to “man up” following their Easter Road mauling.
The Jambos crashed out of the Scottish Cup with a meek surrender against their city rivals on Wednesday, succumbing to a 3-1 defeat – a seventh successive Edinburgh derby unbeaten for Hibs.
The sold-out travelling section made their feelings known throughout the contest, jeering their players during pedestrian passages as Neil Lennon’s side out-played, out-thought and out-fought Cathro’s hapless Hearts.
By full-time there were barely any away fans left in the stadium as the Jambos bowed out at the Scottish Cup fifth round stage against Hibs – just like last season.
That was a result that many punters never forgave former boss Robbie Neilson for, particularly after the Leith outfit went on to lift the trophy. However, Paterson is adamant Cathro will make amends for this capitulation.
The Scotland international said: “Honestly, the gaffer is brilliant. His tactical mind is unbelievable. It’s just not clicking right now, but that will come.
“The way he applies himself on the training ground is impeccable, he is respectful and is great at what he does. It’s just about giving it time to work.
“He’s one of the best managers I’ve ever worked under and his tactical brain is incredible. He will come good.
“I think the Hearts fans did stick by Robbie [Neilson] – but some of them were understandably not happy with the result against Hibs. That’s normal.
“When you lose against your rivals, you go to work the next day and your workmates are taking the mickey out of you – it obviously hurts. But stick by him [Cathro], 100 per cent.
“How do Hearts make amends? By going and taking third place – minimum – and trying to push on further than that.”
Paterson is currently powering through a gruelling rehabilitation schedule after suffering cruciate knee ligament damage in December – and revealed he watched Wednesday’s clash on social media platform Periscope.
With three goals and a red card in this fixture, Paterson’s drive, aggression and intensity was sorely lacking from the Hearts display – as pointed out by players on both sides of the Edinburgh divide, Jason Cummings and Jamie Walker.
Cummings, who took his tally to five goals in six games against Hearts, put the boot in by stating “I look at their team-sheet and I don’t think they know what it means compared to us.”
Walker did not disagree, noting “maybe they have more boys who know what this game means”.
He continued: “It was horrible. We’ve brought in some amazing players, but it didn’t click and the boys will need to take what is coming their way.
“They need to man up and try to rectify it. You could say that Jamie [Walker’s] comments were true, but you could also look at that as an excuse, especially from him, who has played in lots of derbies and scored lots of goals.
“I’ve played in many derbies, I’ve won a few and lost a few, so I know exactly how they feel and how they should be feeling. They need to use that hurt to build something positive.
“What Jason [Cummings] says is true, factually, but it’s an excuse, isn’t it? Football is not about where you have played or what games you have played in. It’s about letting your quality shine through and taking that on to win the games.
“It’s a learning curve – a new country, new players, new style of play, new atmosphere. But it will come good.”
Meanwhile, Paterson insists he is in no rush to make a decision on his future as his contract ticks down Tynecastle.
He is making positive progress after undergoing surgery at a Bradford clinic last month, but is still not expected to return until October – leaving his future “up in the air”, by the defender’s own admission.
Paterson, one of the Scottish Premiership brightest young talents, is contracted to Hearts until the summer, at which point he can sign for another club for a £380,000 compensation fee.
Conversely, he can pen a new deal in Gorgie, safe in the knowledge that his recovery will not be interrupted by the upheaval of a transfer. However, his sole focus at the moment is to battle back to full fitness.
Paterson said: “I will leave it until there is an ultimatum. I have nothing to decide now. My future is up all in the air but I’m not focusing on that at the moment.
“I’ve been dealt the worst hand and I’ve got to focus on fixing myself.
“I’m going to focus on healing and trying to get back to full fitness. Anything that comes along with that is a bonus.”
*Callum Paterson was speaking at the Tesco Bank Football Challenge at Queensferry Primary School. Over 120,000 children have now taken part in the grassroots programme.*