Liam Smith insists an “exciting” future awaits Hearts under Ian Cathro as defender hunts down St Johnstone



LIAM SMITH has assured Hearts supporters that they will be richly rewarded for their patience when the Jambos finally click into gear, insisting Ian Cathro has the self-belief and ability to prove his doubters wrong.

The capital club have endured a testing four months since the rookie head coach replaced Robbie Neilson at the helm, with inconsistent performances, indifferent results and a huge turnover in players leading to some questioning the appointment.

Detractors have also suggested that director of football Craig Levein may have untoward influence, leading to Cathro coming out fighting last week by insisting “more people than normal keen for this club to lose” and that they have “picked the wrong people and wrong club”.

That rallying cry had the desired result as Hearts claimed a much-needed 1-0 win over Dundee on Saturday, strengthening Smith’s resolve that the future is bright under their defiant, determined boss.

“We see that passion regularly,” said the Scotland under-21 star. “It does come across to us. He has had questions asked of him already, but he is absolutely confident in himself and he has belief in us.

“We have that defiance. Even if things aren’t going the way we would like, we are not going to fold.

“Everyone still believes in the plan he has. He believes in what he is doing and the players have faith in what he is trying to put across to us.

“Once we implement that on the pitch, especially at the start of next season, everyone will see the benefits.

“The things he puts across in training, you can see there really is something there. It is very good.

“It has been quite a transition from Robbie [Neilson] to the gaffer now but it is really exciting period ahead. There have been blips, but we need to see past that and look at the bigger picture and what will be a really positive future.”

Smith, speaking as he joined teammates in attending a signing session for the ‘Junior Jambos’ kids club yesterday, is desperate to ensure that pivotal triumph against the struggling Taysiders is not another flash in the pan.

Handsome victories against Rangers, Motherwell and Hamilton proved false dawns earlier in Cathro’s tenure so, heading into Friday night’s encounter against Kilmarnock, the Jambos academy product is aware that consistency is key.

“There have been times when we have won one match and it has looked positive, then we have let ourselves down the next week, so it is vital that we build on the Dundee match,” Smith continued.

“We can’t allow ourselves to slip back into one good match, then underperforming in the next.

“Our form needs to build into Kilmarnock and then into the split.”

Should the Jambos succeed in finding their groove, Smith is adamant they can still catch St Johnstone – who boast a five point lead over the capital club – and claim a Europa League berth.

That is despite Partick Thistle trio Adam Barton, Kris Doolan and manager Alan Archibald stating this week that they intend to overhaul Hearts.

“Partick are quite right to be ambitious,” added Smith. “They have surprised a lot of people and done brilliantly this season.

“But we can’t afford to be looking over our shoulders and thinking about what they are doing – we’ve got St Johnstone in our sights.

“By no means is fourth place out of reach. The games after the split will be massive and, if St Johnstone slip up, then everyone here firmly believes we can still achieve that.”