There has been a microscope on Ian Cathro from the minute he was linked with the Hearts job. Since walking in the Tynecastle doors as Robbie Neilson’s replacement the level of scrutiny has not waned. But while others have been studying him, assessing perceived strengths and, on the back of six wins in 23 matches, the weaknesses, the man in the spotlight says he has been learning new things about himself as well.
“I am even stronger than I thought I was. I am more resilient than I thought I was. And I am even more confident than I thought I was,” said the head coach. “In football my take is that every time something rocks you, if you stop seeing what is happening, then you are all over the place.
“I think there has been a reasonable number of attempts to make me rocky. But I don’t change, we don’t change, my insides don’t change. We focus on the football, we focus on being professional and we focus on improving.”
The frustration for a section of the Hearts support is that the improvement has not been significant enough and certainly not been swift enough.
Since making his managerial debut at Hearts, overseeing a 2-0 loss at Ibrox, the fans’ patience has been tested as the team, patched up in January by a raft of arrivals, has slipped down the Premiership standings. Fourth place and any chance of qualifying for Europe now appears beyond them, as they fight to retain fifth position in the final three matches.
That prompted more boos as the staff and players took to the Gorgie pitch following the final home game of the campaign, last weekend, with the worst of it reserved for Cathro.
It was under such circumstances that he agreed to stand up before punters at the beginning of the week, in a football presentation aimed at raising funds for the new stand and perhaps developing a better understanding between the man in the dugout, who maintains he does not see “any set of circumstances that is going to dent my confidence and belief in delivering football”, and the people in the stands.
“There was never a reason to hide from things,” he added. “The whole point is to find a solution. It was never going to be that I had a dentist appointment. You don’t try to hide or adjust plans. When we made the decision to do this, it was about being happy about being open and if that’s what you are then irrespective of any anticipation of aggro or anything like that, you have to be there and show yourself and say ‘I’m here’.
“That’s what we did. I had no problem with it. But you don’t get three points for a Q&A.”
The countdown to the summer continues with a trip to Govan tomorrow. It is a greater trip into the unknown than would have been the case prior to Mark Warburton’s departure and the arrival of his successor Pedro Caixinha.
“Naturally there is a whole load of reasons why it’s one to look forward to. I think it could be interesting,” Cathro said. “They’re a little but more flexible in how they play so there’s more likelihood of something being a little bit different, either in the system or a certain role a player’s got.
“ Whether he’s trying to find a particular balance or changing throughout the game, there’s a little bit more going on with them than before, so it is more difficult to predict exactly what you’re going to face. We need to be able to adjust and do everything we can to try and win the early part of the game to get into a rhythm where our play is on top.”