Ian Cathro is adamant that he and his players are well aware of the level of uproar Wednesday’s Scottish Cup capitulation against Hibs has caused among Hearts fans.
Supporters jeered the team from the moment they conceded the second goal in their 3-1 defeat at Easter Road and duly booed them off at both half-time and full-time. The fallout over the past few days has been fierce, with director of football Craig Levein, head coach Cathro and the players all coming under fire for the manner of the performance in what was widely viewed as Hearts’ most significant match of the season.
Malaury Martin and captain Perry Kitchen, who were both replaced at half-time, tweeted their apologies for the display on Thursday, while veteran defender Aaron Hughes told press yesterday that he understood entirely why supporters were so irate.
Asked if he was confident that everyone within the club grasped the magnitude of Wednesday’s defeat, which allowed bitter rivals Hibs to make it seven derbies unbeaten and keep the defence of their Scottish Cup on course, Cathro responded: “Everybody knows. Yes. It’s an immediate thing. There was no question about that. The relationship of the supporters with the team and the club is what makes a football club, and we’ve caused damage to that. It’s our responsibility to begin fixing it.”
Cathro knows that words are hollow when there is so much anger among the support. Some Hearts fans never forgave Robbie Neilson for being knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Hibs last February even though he maintained a lofty league position for the remainder of his reign. Just three months into his own tenure, Cathro recognises that, having suffered the same fate as his predecessor, he has already suffered a major setback in his battle to keep supporters onside. With the harrowing Scottish Cup exit following on from an underwhelming run of league form since he took over, the 30-year-old knows the only way to rectify the situation is to spark an immediate and sustained upturn in results.
“Is Wednesday night’s game the same as any other? No it’s not,” he said. “It has bigger ramifications. It’s a bigger magnitude, a bigger game and more important for the people. Nobody possesses a level of naivety to say that’s not the case and that things are normal because they’re not. But it doesn’t change what you do. It doesn’t change what we’re responsible for. For me personally, the only thing that’s important is making sure we collectively are ready to fight to regain the trust of everyone who loves the club as quickly as possible.
“Once we’ve done that, start again to feed them with more reasons to be excited about what comes in the future. But I’ve lost the right to talk about that just now. We’ve lost that because we’ve lost that game against the opponent and so on. We can’t say those things. We have to put the work in and the performances in that brings people’s trust back.”
Cathro insists Wednesday’s defeat was the result of a lacklustre start against a fired-up opponent rather than any issues with the set-up of his team. “Sometimes you have nights where you’re trying to figure out what went wrong – Wednesday wasn’t one of those nights. It was a very simple analysis.
“Of course there is a blend of things needed [in a derby]. The issues that arose for us in the start of that game were nothing to do with style. Nothing to do with systems. They’re simpler than that, more raw than that. That’s where that blend has to be. That’s the responsibility of each one of us.”
Meanwhile, Hughes insists Hearts, who are fourth in the Premiership, must bounce back from Wednesday to ensure they salvage something from the season by qualifying for Europe. “We weren’t good enough on the night and let a lot of people down,” said the 37-year-old defender. “We know we’re better than that and it hurts that our character is being questioned. The performances against Rangers and Motherwell show what we’re capable of but we need to hit those standards consistently.
“Europe was always a target and with us being out of the cup it’s definitely our focus now. We want to take the club forward collectively and qualifying for the Europa League and pushing for the group stages would do that.”