Cathro’s men have recorded only four league wins since the Northern Irishman’s arrival in January.
With Celtic, Aberdeen and Rangers all strengthening in the summer, the consistency of St Johnstone and a revitalised Hibernian now returned to the top flight, reaching the top-three finish owner Ann Budge set for her team every season appears a stretch.
But Hughes refuses to see the target in such fashion, and the 37-year-old is enthused by the quest, drawing hope from a purposeful display with ten men in the 2-1 loss at Ibrox.
“It’s a realistic target, third – and it should be for a club such as Hearts,” he said.
“The responsibility then comes on to us as well to take the club forward. It’s not solely on the manager, everything isn’t on him. We must step up too and understand what we’re playing for and look on it as an exciting thing, not be afraid of it and embrace the challenge - to take a team into Europe or into a final and win silverware.
“I’ve never actually won anything in my career for all the games I’ve played and it would be something I would love to do still.
“There’s still a motivation there to do it, and to be part of it would be something that would live in for you for the rest of your career. To be part of that little bit of history and to really bring the club forward, it would be great to be part of. We have the excitement of the derbies coming back and having to compete with the big clubs again like that.
“We have the brand new stand opening and you must have those ambitions and goals to aim for and we are capable of doing it.”
It has not happened for a Hearts team that have won only six of the 24 games played under Cathro because “when you are building something then it sometimes takes a little bit longer to click”.
Hughes scoffs at the notion that director of football Craig Levein and not just Cathro might make decisions on team tactics and personnel.
“The gaffer is the gaffer, end of,” said Hughes. “He’s the manager, he decides how we play and he picks the team. It’s maybe something to talk about, something different, but the day-to-day running of things in training, certainly since I’ve been here, the gaffer is in charge.”