Ian Cathro: I’m a risk worth taking, says new Hearts boss

Hearts' new head coach Ian Cathro with owner Ann Budge. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Hearts' new head coach Ian Cathro with owner Ann Budge. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
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Ian Cathro is well aware that he is viewed as a risky appointment but the new Hearts head coach says he has enough confidence in his own abilities to ensure that the gamble pays off.

Hearts have made a bold move in hiring a novice manager who has never played professionally and is the youngest to have ever taken charge of a top-flight team.

Introduced to the media yesterday, alongside his assistant Austin MacPhee, Cathro maintained that he is ready for the challenge.

Detractors have claimed the 30-year-old is ill-prepared to take the reins at the Gorgie club, casting doubt on his man-management skills and questioning his ability to gain the respect of a first team squad. But their negativity has not unsettled Cathro, who batted away their barbs with some self-deprecation, a dash of humour and a seemingly boundless level of positivity.

Having joined a club that has been on the up and up over the past couple of years, the man who has replaced Robbie Neilson revealed it is now his intention to cut through “the noise” and deliver results that will quash the doubts.

“Any new manager coming into a club has a percentage of risk,” Cathro stated. “The type of risk with myself is obviously specific as I have not done it before. Something I want to be really clear with is that I understand those doubts. Those doubts are valid and I accept the responsibility for the removal of those doubts. That’s on me.

“Not much bothers me. I’m quite direct and quite a focused person. There’s a lot of noise but I tend to only hear the things that allow me to make a difference. I 100 per cent accept the responsibility of that risk but in the weeks and months some of them will disappear. And a little bit 
further down the line they will all be gone.”

He said that he will send his team out expecting to win and his first test will come against Rangers at Ibrox this weekend.

“It’s an ideal start because you always can get a bit more value out of the analysis and the outcome of these sorts of games,” Cathro said. “There are a few more eyes on you. It’s a good challenge, playing away from home, strong environment. It may help us speed up how quickly we get each other and how quickly we can learn about everyone. It might help us speed things up.”

A dominant display would undoubtedly accelerate his acceptance. But while he is relishing the challenges that lie ahead, Cathro does not consider the winning over of any critics outwith the Gorgie club and its support a priority.

He said that just as Hearts director of football Craig Levein
had taken a punt on him years ago, bringing the innovative outsider into the fold as a youth coach at Dundee United,
the Hearts board were also being brave in backing him and MacPhee.

“That takes courage, it takes an independent mind, it takes belief, it takes risk I suppose.”

But, he said, spells in Portugal, Spain and then with Newcastle United, have readied him for the step into management at a club he considers the ideal fit. “To start as a manager is a big step but it was mainly about where. I’m not a valid option for a football club where you sign your contract, they open the manager’s office, give you the key and then shut the door. If that’s the scenario then don’t appoint me. I’m not right for that and I don’t want that. I want an infrastructure, I want support, I want to be able to grow with people.”