Hearts head coach Ian Cathro has revealed he was present during the post-match meeting between Alexandros Tziolis and Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha which prompted speculation that the Greek midfielder could be on his way to Ibrox.
Tziolis, 32, was spotted entering the Rangers manager’s office following Hearts’ 2-1 defeat on Sunday and was subsequently linked with a switch to the Glasgow giants when his contract expires this summer.
Caixinha coached the former Monaco, Siena and Werder Bremen man during their time together at Panathinaikos and the pair have remained firm friends since. Nevertheless the Portuguese poured scorn on the reports, describing them as “pure rubbish”.
Cathro sought to illuminate the situation yesterday, revealing that he was also in the room as the trio enjoyed a glass of wine – even if Caixinha’s choice of bottle left something to be desired.
“The story in itself would have been very awkward because I was in the room at the time,” said Cathro with a smile. “I was also drinking Portuguese wine with Pedro and Alex. So it would have been quite an awkward situation if that was true.
“I know they worked together before, it’s just a normal thing where you work around the world in different places you build and you leave friendships and it is always nice to catch up. That’s what they were doing and I got a glass of wine out of it as well. Was it a good glass of wine? I’ve had better Portuguese wine, you can let him know that!”
Cathro declined to shed light on whether there is scope for Tziolis to remain at Tynecastle beyond the end of this season but, with interest from the continent – including firm enquiries from the French top-flight – that appears increasingly unlikely.
Hearts head to Perth to face St Johnstone tonight with Viktor Noring set to retain his place between the sticks.
The towering Swede made his full debut for Hearts, 11 months after signing, at Ibrox and was responsible for the error which cost the capital club the game, blotting an otherwise impressive display by dropping a simple cross at the feet of Barrie McKay. Nevertheless, Cathro has no fears regarding the 26-year-old’s character to recover from the mistake, and also believes a spell out of the limelight will prove beneficial for Jack Hamilton.
“It is one of the extra stresses and extra challenges of a goalkeeper, to manage those situations,” continued Cathro, pictured. “But Viktor is an experienced guy, a calm guy and a strong guy, and I don’t have any concerns about how he deals with that.
“He had good moments in the game. You get that little blast of a double-save or moments when he shows his presence, and it was important he got the chance to show himself. For Jack, it’s important to come away from things at times, it just gives you a little bit of space to reflect a little bit, have a breath and progress. He’s not been through the whole life-cycle of being a number one goalkeeper, he is just literally getting started.
“It’s important we recognise that. As a young talented Scottish goalkeeper, we recognise the stage he is at and we support him. He’s a talented young man, and a very strong and resilient one as well.”
Meanwhile, St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright is aiming to tie up the likes of Tam Scobbie and Alan Mannus before the close season, given his side begin their European qualifiers on 29 June. Wright said: “There are one or two who are out of contract who we are talking to and we have targets in mind, we are talking to one or two of them as well. Hopefully we can get at least one of the targets done before we come back. We’re coming back on 10 June, which gives us 19 days. I think that’s the earliest back, it is certainly the least number of days.”
Wright may also give players added rest while his team take on Hearts and Rangers in the coming days.
“We have still got to be strong over the next two games but we can look at one or two who might need a bit of rest, but we still want to finish the season off with two wins and maintain our good record against Hearts,” he said. “The squad is strong enough without weakening the team.”