Ian Cathro To Hearts: The Risk Worth Taking


It seems that Hearts decision to hire Ian Cathro as their new head coach has been a pretty divisive issue for Scottish football.

On one hand you have people telling you that Cathro is a coaching prodigy that will be one of the country’s best given time.

Then on the other-hand you have others telling you that the young coach isn’t experienced enough, he’s a laptop gaffer and will be out of his depth in the Tynecastle hotseat.

I love watching the arguments, knowing that nobody truly knows what’s going to happen next.

It’s a battle between the ‘Hipsters’ against the ‘Dinosaurs’! 

The real beauty is that no one can actually win the debate until Cathro gets his feet under the table and has a full season under his belt.

For me? Well I think Hearts have made a shrewd appointment at almost the perfect time.

Obviously every managerial appointment carries a risk, even the master Jose Mourinho has struggled at Manchester United so far this term.

But Hearts look like a stable club under Ann Budge and Craig Levein.

They worked extremely hard to give former boss Robbie Neilson all the tools needed to succeed at Tynecastle. That won’t change under Cathro, I’d actually imagine that the new arrival might renew the duo’s interest in the club, if that’s possible.

Having a former experienced manager in Levein working as his Director of Football will be a real help to Cathro, as it was with Neilson who was also a rookie number one when he took the job in 2014. I’d iexpect that Craig is always around to give out his wisdom if and when required. He will also know exactly what is needed by a coach and should have a great infrastructure in place to ensure Ian has everything he needs or wants at his finger tips.

The fact that Levein has worked with Cathro before is a big bonus. It’s not an uneasy start for the new coach.

People seem to question Cathro’s age and experience.

Yes at thirty he is young a young head coach but we’ve seen others in the past like Eddie Howe and Andre Vilas-Boas. Presently 1899 Hoffenheim’s twenty-nine year old gaffer Julian Nagelsmann is doing wonderful things in the Bundesliga.

So, a bit like playing football, age is just a number when coaching.

I’m a bit frustrated when critics dismiss him for lacking experience.

At the tender age of twenty-two he was heading up Dundee United’s youth academy. He’s been an assistant manager/coach since 2012 at a very decent level with Portuguese side Rio Ave, La Liga cracks Valencia and most recently at Newcastle United.

He’s been working under people like current Porto boss Nuno Espírito Santo, former England man Steve McClaren and the vastly experienced Rafa Benitez.

I often take my first judgments on managers and coaches on what people, who have worked with them, say. I’ve yet to find a negative word from a former boss or players that have trained under him.

A lot of the criticism seems to come from people that have heard about his techniques secondhand. It usually comes across as bitter, jealous or from a position of misunderstanding his credentials.

Cathro has also brought in Austin MacPhee as his assistant. It shows another ambitious step from Heart of Midlothian. McPhee was a key part in the backroom that helped Northern Ireland gain success at Euro 2016.

These are two well thought of young coaches who seem extremely hungry to succeed and continue to learn.

Cathro spoke very well during his first press conference and he seemed an open character who knows where he wants to go.

I liked the line:

“There isn’t a limit to what you can do unless you believe in the limits that everyone else has set for years and years,”

Again the appointments are a risk but in essence football is just a big, giant risk. Even as fans we choose our clubs with the risk that we’ll suffer more bad days than good.

But at Hearts with people like Budge and Levein at the helm it makes the risk more calculated. They are smart people who have proven in the past that they will do all they can to make the Jambos a force again within Scottish football. I’d argue they’ve done it in a smaller timeframe than even they’d have imagined.

Robbie Neilson has left the club inside the Premiership’s top four positions with a healthy chance of challenging for second place. They have a good squad and they  seem to have a decent scouting network.

So why not be the first club to pin their colours on Ian Cathro and Austin MacPhee? Men that have won praise for their work many times over.

They’re full of ideas and some of them will be odd and maybe even bad ideas but they have the conviction to try them and to learn from them.

Will they succeed?

Well as I’ve already said only time will tell but I hope Hearts and their new management team are successful and it continues to create a buzz. Scottish football stands still for too long and this could be a shot in the arm that we need.

If it doesn’t work then what have we really lost?

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