Fired-up Hearts head coach Ian Cathro has come out swinging after insisting that the detractors who want to see the Tynecastle side fall flat on their face have picked the wrong fight.
The rookie boss is under pressure in his maiden dugout post with the Gorgie outfit slipping to fifth in the Premiership having lost six of their last seven games in all competition.
And former Newcastle United assistant manager Cathro is adamant that ‘more people than normal’, want to see Hearts fail.
The 30-year-old has faced intense scrutiny over his suitability for the job since replacing Robbie Neilson in December and director of football Craig Levein’s role in first team affairs has also been called into question.
But Cathro, whose side host Dundee today, believes Hearts will have the last laugh.
He said: “I think there is probably a situation for the last little while that there might be more people than normal keen for this club to lose, I think so.
“Anybody choosing to do that has probably picked the wrong people and wrong club to go at.
“We’re very strong together and very focussed on doing what we do.
“To try and rock a club like this, which has had darker days and been saved by incredibly passionate, loyal and powerful fans, it is unlikely for that to succeed.
“For that being the case, I’m quite happy to accept that and say, ‘come on’. If there are more people than normal want to see us lose, ‘come on’, we’ll fight through that.”
Cathro, who has only won five of his 19 matches in the dugout – the latest set-back being Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at St Johnstone, added: “To also be clear, we’re in a run of results which is unacceptable to this club and the criticism and the frustration of the fans is something we understand.
“That’s the bit that’s real, it hurts. That’s the responsibility of me and us as well. What I say to them is that we understand that we’re incredibly privileged to be at a club which has this level of support and power around it.
“It’s up to us to make sure we move forward and as quickly as possible and we give them reasons to start to look forward as well.
“We can only do that through games and results and it has to be on a game by game basis and we have to start doing it.
“It’s important people know there are strong people here so don’t worry too much about that.”
Cathro, meanwhile, has branded Sam Nicholson ‘stupid and foolish’ and revealed that the winger has apologised to him and the squad after being sent off at McDiarmid Park for aiming a spit in the direction of assistant referee Stephen Mitchell.
The club decided against appealing after reviewing footage of the unsavoury incident.
Cathro added: “The situation is that Sam has recognised the mistake that he has made. He has apologised to me, he has apologised to his team-mates.
“He is guilty of a stupid action, stupid behaviour though frustration, which affected the team.
“There wasn’t a direct attempt to spit on someone. It was a stupid gesture through frustration in a moment of the game where he had lost himself from the game.
“We are not happy about it by any means. It’s unacceptable to the team, it’s unacceptable to me and it’s unacceptable to the club for one of our players to be in that position but it’s important that it doesn’t get dragged on too far and all of a sudden we’re calling him the devil because that’s not true either.
“He’s a young, immature player who has done a foolish, stupid thing which is unacceptable to the team and to the club. He will be disciplined privately and internally, but let’s leave it at that.
“I will add that Sam is a young player who of course has growing up to do in every aspect, as do all young players at that stage of their life.
“He is a good young Scottish talent with good energy and a lot ahead of him. It would be completely wrong to paint him as someone who has that sort of darkness that we associate with spitting.”
Hearts striker Bjorn Johnsen, meanwhile, admits the team’s fragile confidence is a factor in their barren run of results.
He said: “‘It’s about togetherness. We need to stay together. If one thing goes wrong, we all keep going in our shells and we’re not staying together as a team.
‘We need to realise we’re not playing well as a team. You notice those things in a game: ‘Oh, why is he playing over there?’. It all comes back to confidence.”