BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
FORMER Hearts head coach Ian Cathro has opened up about his tumultuous spell at Tynecastle, claiming the public perception of him in Scotland was ‘bulls***’ as he vowed to emerge stronger from the ordeal.
Boasting laudable experience as an assistant at Rio Ave, Valencia and Newcastle, the rookie boss was lauded in many quarters after being handed the reins in Gorgie by director of football Craig Levein.
However, there was a similarly vociferous backlash against his appointment, with the most notable criticism coming from Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd, who famously dubbed him a laptop manager and added: ‘He’s probably not been this excited since FIFA 17 came out on PlayStation.’
Cathro is adamant he never claimed to be a ‘revolutionary’ and had no desire to take centre-stage in a battle between modernisers and the old guard.
Nevertheless, he accepts that is what happened before he even set foot into the Hearts dugout.
He said: “There’s this idea that exists in Scotland which is just bulls***, really.
“I was a bit surprised by the intensity and, with the chance to look back, it’s clear people had decided I was a test case for extremes.
“Everybody had to decide what side they were on – here’s the group of people who think I represent young coaches who will revolutionise Scottish football and bring it back up to date. Then there’s the other side, who were uncomfortable with that idea and fight it.
“I was positioned as something that I never asked to be. I never claimed that I was going to bring Scottish football into 2018 or doing anything like that. I was just a coach who wants to work hard and make progress.
“One of the issues was that a false sense of my character and personality was created. That was done right at the start.”
Speaking to Coaching & Prejudices: The Need For A Revolution, hosted by Spanish football pundit Guillem Balague, Cathro acknowledged that image may have caused supporters to turn on him as he struggled to deliver results and performances.
Having replaced Robbie Neilson, who left Hearts second in the Premiership when he joined MK Dons in December 2016, Cathro won just six of his first 19 fixtures in charge.
“No matter what size of club or what culture of football you talk about, the fans need to believe in the man who stands on the side of the pitch with their football team,” he continued.
“That can happen through results, the football that they see, or through the persona of the person.
“And before I had even met the players there were a lot of false impressions fed to people which influenced what people thought my persona was. That perception becomes even more important if you don’t get those early results.”
Cathro was ultimately dismissed last August – just six days before their first Premiership fixture of this season against Celtic – after a 2-2 draw against Dunfermline at Tynecastle saw them crash out of the Betfred Cup at the group phase.
The decision was made by owner Ann Budge following a furious reaction from the home fans in Gorgie. Cathro, however, insists he is GLAD he went through the ill-fated eight months in Edinburgh.
“I’m in a position now that I’m really glad it happened,” he added. “If that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have the scars on my back I have now. You need scars. I’m only 31, so I’m really grateful for everything that was thrown.”