By Rory West
This week has seen Hearts breaking the mold of Scottish football’s agenda; however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The appointment of Ian Cathro after Robbie Neilson’s departure raised eyebrows within the Scottish game as the ex – Newcastle coach became the youngest manager in the whole Scottish football system, at 30 years old. Despite the criticism aimed at Cathro from certain areas of the game – branding his methods as “laptop coaching” – he comes into this job after working under one of football’s most respected coaches, Rafa Benitez, at Newcastle.
With names such as Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley being thrown around as to who should replace Neilson, Cathro was certainly an outside the box appointment due to his lack of managerial experience. But this certainly isn’t a bad thing for Hearts as the vision and ideas for the way football should be played that Cathro has are ones that will not only bring Hearts but potentially Scottish football forward.
Cited as an influence from one of Scottish football’s future stars, Ryan Gauld, Cathro’s previous experience in the Scottish game was as head of youth development at Dundee United, where he fulfilled that role at aged only 22. This is where he helped develop the career of Gauld and also John Souttar who he’ll work with again at Hearts.
John Souttar is a great example of the style of football that Cathro intends on playing at Hearts. As a centre half Souttar is very comfortable on the ball but also well assured with his defensive side of the game. This has seen the ex – Dundee United player become one of the most improved players in the Scottish Premiership this season.
Claims have been aimed at Cathro since his appointment that the job will see him out of his depth. This may well be true, only time will tell but what cannot be questioned is the man’s dedication to succeed. In the past eight years Cathro has worked at Dundee United, Rio Ave of Portugal, Valencia and Newcastle – noting at Newcastle he was the only member of Steve McLaren’s staff the Rafa Benitez thought merited a role on his coaching staff. This is all while he managed to attain the sought after UEFA Pro coaching license.
Cathro has managed to squeeze in a career’s worth of experiences and lessons into his last eight years of his coaching career. The unfortunate part of this appointment that Hearts could face is that, at 3o, this job may only be a stepping stone for Cathro. Coaches such as Eddie Howe at Bournemouth can be seen as someone that Cathro can replicate. Not in the same manner as Howe but a Premier League job could only be around four years away for Ian Cathro. Not forgetting that Cathro has already coached in the English Premier League with Newcastle.
First game’s don’t get much more difficult than Rangers at Ibrox but that is what Cathro is facing and there will be no doubt that, if Hearts lose, he will face and onslaught from the media, with certain outlets actually hinting at the desperation for Cathro’s failure. An immediate impact from Ian Cathro isn’t certified but if so he will still need time to develop himself as a coach and a manager. For the good of Scottish football, even through rivalries, success for Cathro can influence a whole new generation of younger coaches.