BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS legend Jim Jefferies insists fan power ensured the dismissal of Ian Cathro was inevitable – and reckons director of football Craig Levein is now under immense pressure to get the next appointment right.
The 31-year-old left his role as head coach on Tuesday morning following the Jambos’ dismal Betfred Cup exit, finishing behind Dunfermline and Peterhead in the group phase, and having overseen just eight wins in 30 competitive fixtures.
The final straw proved to be their defeat on penalties against the Pars on Saturday, with Cathro heading down the tunnel to a barrage of abuse from furious fans, many of whom had called for his resignation during the match.
Amid the fury from supporters, Jefferies believes there was only going to be one outcome and acknowledges that it was better to bite the bullet sooner rather than later, with the start of the Premiership campaign mere days away.
“The atmosphere hasn’t been great, in terms of the supporters wanting change, and when that happens it is hard to come back from,” said Jefferies.
“I don’t think it is a surprise to anyone and, after the reaction of the fans, it felt inevitable that a change would be made.
“I was talking to a few people who were at the game and they said they had never seen the stadium so hostile. I think that is what has forced the decision.
“People might say it is not an ideal time – with the league season starting on Saturday – but the mood is clearly negative at the moment and Hearts felt the need to give the club a lift.
“It remains to be seen whether that is successful, but at least a decision has been made before the league has started.”
The role was Cathro’s first ever managerial position in a coaching career that included spells with Newcastle and Valencia, with Levein drawing upon their time working together at Dundee United to come to the conclusion that the rookie boss could handle the step up.
However, Jefferies, who enjoyed two spells in charge of Hearts and led them to the 1998 Scottish Cup, knows all-too well that being a precocious coach is a very different challenge to managing one of the biggest clubs in Scotland.
“Sometimes these things just don’t work out,” continued Jefferies. “It was his first managerial job and, although it’s fine and well being an assistant elsewhere, it is a very different thing from being the manager to being a coach.
“A lot of people build up their management skills – not coaching, because that is a different thing – by coming through the lower league and, if he had done that, perhaps it would have been different. I’m sure he’ll have learned a few things and will come back stronger.”
Levein, meanwhile, turns his attention to finding Cathro’s successor, with the failure of his protege Cathro ensuring there will be additional scrutiny on his decision.
Indeed, Hearts are now looking for their third head coach in eight months and, allied with a remarkable turnover in players in the last three transfer windows, the supposed stability afforded by the director of football structure has not been apparent.
“I think everyone would agree that there is a bit of pressure on Craig,” added Jefferies. “That is what he is there to do, and the football department is his remit.
“And when Robbie [Neilson] moved on, they tried to continue with this system of hiring an inexperienced coach, with Craig’s prerogative of wanting to develop them. It remains to be seen whether they will do that again and stick with that belief.
“If they appoint another rookie boss and it doesn’t work again, then I think the plan has to be scrapped.”