BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS head coach Ian Cathro insists he has no problem with Arnaud Djoum aspiring to outgrow the Jambos – however he is adamant the Cameroon star is happy at Tynecastle.
The 28-year-old, whose contract runs until 2019, has repeatedly expressed a desire to use Hearts as a stepping stone, most recently telling Goal.com that he “hopes to join one of the five major championships after the Confederations Cup.”
In a February interview with Le Jour, a publication in his homeland, the Africa Cup of Nations winner revealed he wanted to “take a step towards a better club”.
Djoum has been linked with the likes of Caen, Real Betis and Hertha Berlin but returned to training with the capital club at the start of this week following his international exertions at the Confederations Cup in Russia.
And, after welcoming the amiable playmaker back with open arms – literally – a calm Cathro has told Djoum that the only way he will get his dream move to one of Europe’s top leagues is by starring for Hearts this season.
Cathro said: “Arnaud was back with us on Monday and I gave him a hug and we saw his big smile, which has lit the place up again.
“Arnaud is content here. He has had to live through quite a lot of big experiences and you can’t undervalue the impact that has. He is a player who can progress and play at a higher level, but the way to do that is to be focused and concentrated here – and be ready to deliver big performances.
“Players in our team – a big club in this country – will have opportunities to progress and we accept the position we are in within the bigger market, have to deal with those things. Everybody understands the aspirations and desire to progress.
“I had a lot of conversations before the end of the season and naturally we caught up once he got back, and there is no underlying issue.
“I want every single one of them to want that [to play on a bigger stage] because then have a certain mindset.
“You have to want to develop and push yourself and, as long as our motivation all comes together for the benefit of the team, then we will get the best possible performances on the pitch and a team that wants to progress.”
As well as Djoum’s return to action, Hearts have been boosted by John Souttar coming through his first game in six months, making a 45 minute appearance for the club’s under-20 side against Civil Service Strollers this week.
Souttar has not kicked a ball for the first-team since since rupturing his Achilles tendon against Celtic in January but has now returned to full training and is firmly on course for his target of featuring against the Hoops in this season’s Premiership opener on August 5.
“He is getting through everything perfectly fine. He is in good condition, good shape and is happy to be back involved. Most young players have hunger, but he has been starved of the game and he comes back in with a wee bit more of that than normal – we have had to control that and keep him calm.
“But everyone has done well well and he has worked particularly hard on getting himself back and on his strengthening work, so he is nearly ready.
Cathro, whose side host East Fife in the Betfred Cup on Saturday, also stated that “nothing has changed” with regards to Rangers’ interest in Jamie Walker after he told the Gers they would be wasting their time launching another bid last week.
And he confirmed the club remain on the hunt for a new goalkeeper and midfielder, albeit those deals are likely to happen “further down the line”.