Confronted by a couple of angry punters as he exited Easter Road on Wednesday night, Hearts head coach Ian Cathro said he was not shocked by the angry outburst. The only thing that surprised him after such a dismal showing by his team was that there was not a bigger crowd hanging around to vent their spleen.
The clash has been uploaded to YouTube and illustrates the strength of Hearts fans feelings after they were left embarrassed and frustrated by the midweek cup exit at the hands of their derby rivals. But Cathro, who said he was hurting as much as any of the supporters, insists he had no problem with the confrontation and sees the fans’ passion as a positive.
“I have no problem with what was said. It didn’t shock me, I probably expected more of them! I wouldn’t have had a problem with that,” he said. “Were you there? I was there so I know [how disappointing it was]! And I know how much football means to people. There were a couple of people and they were upset and angry.
“This is a football club that matters to people. That is the reality of it. I have been in situations where you come back from an airport and there are 5000 fans waiting to do that. That’s challenging. At Valencia I experienced that in the positive sense but it was made very clear to me that even more would have been waiting if we had lost. We had come back from Madrid and had almost secured the Champions League place but a very wise man behind me tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘more come when the result isn’t as positive’. But this is football and people care and games mean something. That is our life. And it would be worse if fans didn’t care – it just can’t be that way, because we wouldn’t be able to achieve the things we want to achieve.
“It has to matter to people and it has to be real. I’m good with that. People were hurt because of what happened and they should be and I need to deal with that because it happened.”
The Hearts boss has made it clear that the team now have a lot of making up to do if they are to win back the favour of fans who have seen the form stutter since their side impressed with a thrilling, full-on performance against Rangers. That display proved the ability and the fight is there and Cathro believes they can recapture that and build on it but he acknowledged that talk is cheap in the current climate.
“We’ve taken backward steps and it’s a big frustration,” he said. “The only thing we can do is now start taking forward ones. That’s what our responsibility is now. We have to very quickly step up and step forward.
“What we can’t do is get ourselves back in the Scottish Cup. We can’t beat a team we’re not playing. What we have to do is give the people who love the club a clear reason to trust us again. I’ve lost the right to talk about that just now. We’ve lost that because we’ve lost that game so we have to put the work in to get performances.”
A trip to Partick Thistle could be seen as a no-win contest, with a victory expected and anything less adding salt to gaping wounds, but defender Aaron Hughes is happy to be back in action so soon and views it as the first step towards rehabilitating reputations and repairing the damage to the relationship with fans.
“Let’s say we go out and win the game and get three points, that still won’t make Wednesday’s defeat any easier to take. It will start the process of getting better and get us back on track but there’s still that feeling of what could have been,” said the Northern Ireland international. “It was a tough one to take. Derbies have that extra that makes it harder to take but even if you take the derby aspect out of it, it was an opportunity to progress in the cup.
“No matter how quickly you get over it, you still remember what it felt like. You can use that emotion to drive you to be better next time.”
The target now is chasing down third-placed Rangers. “Europe was always a target and with us being out of the cup it’s definitely our focus. We want to take the club forward and qualifying for the Europa League and pushing for the group stages would do that.”