Ian Cathro has tried hard not to concern himself with the pomp of the occasion. Instead of thinking about guards of honour, or the heraldry or the hullaballoo which will infiltrate virtually every aspect of this afternoon’s final Premiership fixture, he has concentrated on trying to find a way to spoil the party.
That would involve his team becoming the first side this season to defeat the champions on league business, denying them several slices of history. That would take some of the shine off the trophy presentation set to follow the final whistle but it would also take the kind of mammoth effort not really seen from the men in maroon in recent months.
“I’m sure they have quite a well-orchestrated plan of events from early in the morning. And we just happen to be there to kick a ball. It’s not an enjoyable thing,” said Cathro.
“They deserve to have that day for the quality of their work and their consistency throughout the season so we respect that. But we need to make sure that we go and are ready to compete and respect ourselves.”
The last time the teams met, at Tynecastle, Hearts did start promisingly, but having failed to take their chances in the opening period, they were then broken when Scott Sinclair showed them how it should be done and the guests ultimately ran out comfortable 5-0 victors. That was the day they sealed the title and now the Gorgie players will be the unwilling supporting act as the curtain comes down on their league campaign.
“We were devastated to watch [them win the title at Tynecastle],” admits youngster Rory Currie, whose breakthrough into the first team has been one of the few highlights in a disappointing season for the Gorgie club. “It wasn’t a good feeling, all the lads were obviously frustrated, but you’ve obviously got to take that and make it motivate you to go out and try get better results so that hopefully we’re the ones lifting a cup next year.
“If we beat them then we will be walking away with something from it so we’ll need to just go and try to do that and not think about the trophy at the end that they are lifting.”
“I think there’s a number of ways we can get motivation,” agreed Cathro, who recognises the match carries less importance than the weeks and months to follow. That is when the summer recruitment and rebuilding workmust show positive results if he is to win over disgruntled fans and turn around fortunes that have not favoured him since he replaced Robbie Neilson.
“We feel there’s a lot of these moments of people enjoying themselves against us. That’s not very enjoyable so, yeah, there’s motivations in that but we need to have our own motivations from the inside of us as well.
“We accept that these days are naturally for the home team and we certainly respect the quality and consistency of Celtic’s work throughout the course of the season so we will deal with it properly and professionally. But we care more about us.”
Currie has experienced life at Celtic, having come through the youth ranks with guys such as the Scottish Young Player of the Year Kieran Tierney, before being moved on, Since then he has had time at Rangers but it took the move to Hearts to earn him a breakthrough.
“The season has been brilliant from my own point of view. I only joined the team as an under-20s player at the start of the season and I’ve broken through to the first team so it’s been really good.
“Hopefully I can keep going, keep being involved in the team. We just need to see where it takes us when next season happens.”
Much responsibility has been placed on Currie’s shoulders at times this season, such as coming on against Hibs and being asked to revive derby hopes. At times he has been an example in work ethic and enthusiasm and has shown more zip and desire than more experienced men around him but, while supporters admire all that, they want a ready-made striker to guide him on his development and deliver goals.
The summer additions are going to be vital, the work on the training ground key if they are to get a flying start next term, especially as the first raft of games will be away due to the work on the new main stand.
“We continue to look forward to every game,” stressed Cathro. “Because every game has got value in it. But we are at a point where the more critical work now probably does come after that.”
By the time Celtic lift the trophy and enjoy the celebrations, Cathro’s mind will already be fixed on next term.