BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
IAN CATHRO has guaranteed that Craig Levein will not be in the dressing room when Celtic visit Tynecastle tomorrow as he sought to end the controversy surrounding the director of football’s role once and for all.
The debate regarding Levein’s position has been resurrected after he was pictured shuttling notes to Cathro, via under-20s coach Jon Daly, during a 2-0 defeat against Aberdeen a fortnight ago.
The former Scotland boss also entered the Pittodrie dressing room at half-time.
It prompted several high-profile figures to suggest Cathro was at risk of being undermined, with former club captain Steven Pressley insisting match-days should be left to the manager and ex-Jambos boss Gary Locke urging Levein to explain the dynamic.
However, Cathro has revealed that Levein entering the dressing room is far from commonplace and explained that they were seeking privacy away from the television cameras.
Asked whether Levein could be in the dressing room on Sunday, Cathro said: “No, he never is. That’s not normal.
“It was a strange situation at Aberdeen and it’s better to deal with that directly: what’s normal is that we reach half-time, I’ll bring all the staff together and we’ll spend a couple of minutes just going through what we need to go through – our feelings, our thoughts and so on.
“Instead, in the game against Aberdeen, there was no access to any private area and there was a camera following us. We didn’t know that the story [passing of notes] had already started and the camera comes in.
“In order to avoid the creator of the story [BT Sport], we probably added to the story by going for privacy in the back of the changing room! That was the one and only time.”
On the subject of notes from on high, Cathro is adamant he encourages the input, but has left no one in any doubt that he can veto any instructions from his director of football.
Indeed, the structure at Hearts is effectively identical to what it was during Robbie Neilson’s two-and-a-half years in charge, when Levein regularly utilised Jack Ross and, latterly, Liam Fox, to pass messages to the head coach.
The difference now, Cathro suspects, is the fact the Jambos are on a run of just five wins in 17 outings.
“The form of a team always controls the story,” the former Valencia and Newcastle assistant continued. “You sometimes get the sense that people waiting for a certain moment for this. I understand that there was a similar tone at times towards Robbie [Neilson].
“This had almost become a story previously and it was addressed at that point – then history repeats itself. I find that a bit strange.
“We are working as part of a group and Craig [Levein] is one of those who has experience we can draw on. We are taking advantage of everything we can and that is my decision.
“I absolutely, 100 per cent, make the calls.”
He added: “I’m sure this will die down if we win against Celtic.” That, however, will be easier said than done, as Hearts seek to become the first side to inflict a domestic defeat on Celtic – a unit he describes as “machine-like” under Brendan Rodgers.
“They’re a very consistent team with strong players,” he added. “The way they play is clear, they have a process and it’s machine-like at times. That’s why they’ve achieved what they have.
“It’s one of those games where we know there will be an atmosphere inside that stadium come half-past 12 on Sunday. We want to be in control of that, leading it and driving it.
“Our attitude is to approach the game wanting to win the game. Maybe that’s the first difference. I’m not sure how many teams approach Celtic with that attitude. They maybe say it, but we mean it. They’ll have a team to play against tomorrow.”