After much fanfare, dismissive jibes and leaping defences across a number of mediums, Ian Cathro took his place in the Hearts dugout for the first time, succumbing to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Mark Warburton’s Rangers.
His appointment has split Scottish football into three camps: those who hail it as an innovative appointment way ahead of its time; those who couldn’t believe that a socially-awkward android with little or no experience had been given a top job; and those who somehow managed to stay immune to the effects of this polarising appointment and instead just stared at their Twitter feed in amazement as a war of keyboard-bashing unfolded.
With Robbie Neilson leaving the Tynecastle side in decent form before departing, and caretakers Jon Daly and Andy Kirk following up with a credible 2-2 draw in Dingwall, Cathro decided to stick with the same starting eleven that had started the previous three matches.
Anyone expecting to see the Second Coming make a leftfield team selection, shape or strategy were left disappointed. Anyone expecting an exciting, innovative brand of football from the Messiah, honed through meticulous coaching sessions, intermittently interrupted by Power Point presentations and ring-bound dossiers on direct opponents, would be more disappointed still.
Hearts looked nervous in possession and struggled to pass their way out of the first third before punting the ball into the channels.
Warburton instructed his side to press the Hearts backline, selecting James Tavernier as a central midfielder to aid this, retaining the defensive solidity provided by Lee Hodson at right-back. It allowed Tavernier to concentrate on what he does best: getting in and around the opposition area, causing problems.
For someone who is drawn to the opposition penalty area like a moth to a lightbulb, and in a league which few can teams afford to have two aggressively attacking full-backs leaving two central defenders exposed, it makes sense to find a role for Tavernier with limited defensive responsibility.
He was one of Rangers’ better players on the day, constantly harassing the Hearts defence with and without the ball and it was he who sent in the free-kick for Rob Kiernan to open the scoring.
Rangers have been slow and ponderous in the first half of matches recently – though, in fairness, they usually improve after half-time – and made a point of upping the tempo straight from kick-off. They did so at the start of the second half too, effectively ending the match by adding a second.
With Joe Garner spearheading the attack, offering a physical presence and allowing Rangers to go long when required, and Kenny Miller buzzing around between central positions and the right-wing, Barrie McKay was again tasked with linking with Lee Wallace down the left.
McKay, who has struggled to rediscover his form from last season, turned in his best performance of the campaign so far, exploiting the space left by the occasionally careless Callum Paterson before popping up at the back post on the opposite side to put Rangers 2-0 up shortly after half-time.
Seconds before this, Cathro had given motivational instructions to Tony Watt and sent him on for the limping Jamie Walker. Before Watt had even got within close proximity of the ball, it was in the Hearts net for the second time of the afternoon, courtesy of McKay.
A further change saw Robbie Muirhead replaced by Conor Sammon, meaning the two wide players Hearts had started with – bearing in mind the lack of width in the side at the moment – had been replaced by centre forwards.
It led to Hearts enjoying their best spell of the match but, even at their best, the closest Cathro’s men came to troubling Wes Foderingham was when a shot deflected off a Rangers defender and looped safely into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Hearts’ away form was terrible before Cathro arrived, and going to Ibrox for your first match in charge is certainly not the easiest fixture available. It is also his first ever match as a manager. However, this will not stop reams of keyboard hardmen from taking to social media to score some hollow, one-upmanship points. Nor will it prevent newspaper columns and radio shows from pulverising this dead horse into oblivion.
First blood in this surprisingly intense debate surrounding Cathro’s appointment goes to the inflexible dinosaurs who would still have considered Jimmy Calderwood for the job.
Though any sensible person would agree that jumping to conclusions about Cathro based on 90 minutes against a side that have not lost at home in over a year, would be ridiculously premature.
We can only hope that Scottish football’s twitterati realises this. If they don’t, our only hope is that something else has Scottish football’s attention in the coming week.