Jon Daly will lead Hearts into their first league game of the season against Celtic away on Saturday as the club search for an experienced head coach to replace Ian Cathro.
Daly, promoted on a temporary basis from Under-20 coach, will be assisted by Liam Fox and assistant head coach Austin MacPhee, who is being retained by the club despite Cathro’s departure.
The news Cathro had left the club was revealed in a statement released just after 9am yesterday. In it director of football Craig Levein confirmed Cathro was leaving “with immediate effect”.
Speculation about the head coach’s future had intensified as soon as the final whistle blew to end Hearts’ 2-2 draw with Dunfermline on Saturday. There was still a penalty shoot-out to be endured, which Hearts lost. But the dropped points had already left Hearts as the only top-flight club eliminated from the Betfred Cup at the group stage.
Managers already being linked with the vacant post include former players Paul Hartley, Gary Naymith, Steven Pressley and Allan Johnston, the Dunfermline manager whose side contributed to Cathro’s downfall.
Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, is also a candidate, as is Partick Thistle’s Alan Archibald. Former Hearts manager Paulo Sergio has also expessed an interest.
Cathro, who was appointed in December, won only five of 22 league games in charge. A Betfred Cup defeat by Peterhead and a draw at home with Dunfermline meant Hearts acted swiftly, if reluctantly, to end his tenure.
MacPhee was instrumental in bringing several new signings to the club this summer and will continue to work as before. He is due to join the Northern Ireland squad later this month for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Czech Republic in his role as assistant manager to Michael O’Neill.
Cathro, meanwhile, was in the West Midlands speaking to Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo on Monday. He worked with Santo at Rio Ave and Valencia and could be lined up for a post on the Wolves coaching staff.
Cathro was thanked for his efforts by Hearts yesterday.
The head coach joined the club in a blaze of publicity in December. Having never played professional football, the then 30 year-old’s appointment was viewed as bold by some and controversial by others. Except for a 4-1 victory over Rangers, results proved underwhelming. Hearts were also knocked out of the Scottish Cup by rivals Hibs.
“The Board wishes it to be known that this was a very difficult decision, reluctantly made, as every member of the Board recognises that Ian is an extremely talented young coach with a very bright future ahead of him,” said the statement.