As expressed yesterday, this writer’s opinion is that the biggest problem with Ian Cathro wasn’t his character, it was his inability to get Hearts playing with any sort of structure or a cohesive gameplan throughout his time in charge.
That being said, it doesn’t mean he didn’t score a few own goals in front of the media, which only intensified the pressure on him as results on the park failed to improve, culminating in Tuesday morning’s sacking.
These are five post-match interviews the now-former head coach would probably like to do over.
Raith Rovers (a)
Having just witnessed his side lose a last-minute goal to struggling Championship side Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup, forcing a replay at Tynecastle, Cathro was asked the completely innocuous question: “How difficult was that to take?”
His response: “Ah, it’s ok. It’s the situation which was... eh... how, is it difficult? What’s difficult?”
It was a baffling response to a softball-toss of a question. To be fair, though, he did do a better job of explaining the situation when asked about it later in the week, saying his emotions got the better of him in the immediate aftermath of the game, and that nobody would have been cringing more than himself.
He didn’t, however, do himself any favours by questioning the “crazy” scheduling of the replay four days after the original fixture, which it later transpired was a request from Hearts.
During Hearts’ 2-0 defeat at Aberdeen, director of football Craig Levein could be seen discussing the game in the stand with coach Jon Daly, at which point the ex-Rangers striker sauntered down to the dugout and spoke with Austin MacPhee, Cathro’s assistant. It appeared to the BT Sport commentators, not to mention those watching at home, that Levein was sending messages down to the dugout. Furthermore, there were reports of Levein entering the dressing room at half-time, with Hearts a goal down.
After the match, instead of addressing the issue head on, Cathro talked in circles to the waiting press. He never mentioned Levein by name when asked about the supposed messages being sent down from above, choosing to focus on Jon Daly’s part in things.
Then, when asked what exactly Levein was doing in the dressing room at half-time, he said: “You’ve probably got to look at the schematics of Pittodrie - there’s not that much space.”
The strangest thing about this was that it came just minutes after he’d spoken quite forthrightly on the issue to BT Sport.
This inclusion may seem a little harsh because, later in the week, Hearts released a statement which revealed that a national journalist had contacted the club to apologise for his paper’s backpage headline, which made it seem Cathro was claiming that Hearts would have fared much better if the goalposts weren’t there.
In actuality, he was trying to make the point that Celtic had much more quality in their side, meaning they were better equipped to finish off chances that came their way, and Hearts hadn’t done anywhere near badly as the scoreline suggested.
This was a case of naivety more than anything else. Saying “if you take the goalposts away” is always going to bring on ridicule, regardless of context. And, if you read some of the social media jokes made in the wake of his sacking, you’ll know it’s a comment which followed him to the end of his managerial reign.
His penultimate match, the 2-1 defeat in the Betfred Cup. While obviously stating his disappointment at the result, Cathro sought to defend the performance and defeat to a League Two side. He talked of his new-look team trying out new things and, basically, needing time to gel.
As if those words wouldn’t have been bad enough for an irate Hearts’ fanbase to digest, it was later stated by Peterhead boss Jim McInally that the underdogs themselves were fielding seven new players. Hearts had only three.
The under-fire tried to sound bullish and confident, saying: “I am incredibly comfortable in what I am doing and fortunately for me there is not one thing that could happen that would rock me.” Unfortunately for him, it failed to convey the message he wanted.
The word “comfortable” was the wrong choice. “Comfortable” brings to mind words such as “content”, “relaxed”, “agreeable”. None of that could be applied to the current predicament Hearts found themselves in, and so it went with the club’s board. After much deliberation, they relieved Cathro of his duties.