Ian Cathro has confirmed that Alex Tziolis will be part of Hearts’ summer exodus.
Several players are expected to depart Tynecastle after the team lost their way badly in the second half of the season and ended up finishing fifth in the Premiership.
Greek international midfielder Tziolis, who was signed on a short-term deal in January, is among those to have played their last game for the club in yesterday’s campaign-ending 2-0 defeat away by champions Celtic. “The situation with Alex was to join us until the end of the season and bring qualities very difficult to get in that [January] window,” said Cathro. “We expect Alex to move on and we wish him well.”
Cathro refused to be drawn on the future of other out-of-contract players, although conversations have been held to establish who will be staying and who is set to depart. The head coach also declined the chance to confirm that Bjorn Johnsen, who remains under contract, will still be at Hearts next season. The striker was involved in a well-documented bust-up with Cathro at half-time in last Wednesday’s defeat away to St Johnstone but retained his place in the starting line-up yesterday.
“Bjorn worked well today in a difficult role,” he said. “You saw a focused player on the pitch today. There also has to be a degree of respect around some of things and some of the comments. I think if there was an issue you wouldn’t have seen such a professional and disciplined performance from Bjorn.”
Asked if he will still be a part of the team next season, Cathro said: “No-one is entirely in control of these things. The market sometimes dictates. But the performance today is one that I would like to have in my team.”
Cathro was disappointed to have ended the season with a fourth consecutive defeat and a tenth in 14 games after second-half goals from Leigh Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong.
However, he took some solace from the resilience his team showed on a day when a rampant Celtic side were looking to complete an unbeaten league campaign in front of a crowd savouring their sixth title in a row and the 50th anniversary of their European Cup triumph in Lisbon.
“It was a difficult environment to come into here, because the whole day was about Celtic having a party,” said Cathro. “You never want to be uninvited guests in that case, so we set about making sure that feeling wasn’t present in the first half and I think we did it relatively well. We were disciplined in what we were doing in trying to get into the game.
“As the match progressed, we could maybe have used the ball a little better more often. There were moments when we did, when we started to get ourselves up and into the game. But we respect that we have played against the best team in the country. For us, there were some okay things and some positive things.”
Cathro, who has had a chastening time since replacing Robbie Neilson as head coach five months ago, is now focused on ensuring that Hearts are better equipped for next season. “For me, what is important is that we have got through a lot in the last five months,” he said. “We are now in a position where we are very clear in the work we have do, and we start that straight away.
“What should fans expect to see next season? I appreciate the question but I don’t want to say too much about it and instead just get on with it.”