Cathro’s Hearts future in balance as Cowie aims to repay him

Hearts head coach Ian Cathro walks alone among his players ahead of the penalty shoot-out against Dunfermline. Pic: SNS
Hearts head coach Ian Cathro walks alone among his players ahead of the penalty shoot-out against Dunfermline. Pic: SNS
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The future of Hearts head coach Ian Cathro is in the balance following the club’s Betfred League Cup exit. Directors discussed his position on Saturday night and further talks are likely this week ahead of the Ladbrokes Premiership kick-off.

Scrutiny surrounding Cathro heightened on Saturday as a 2-2 draw with Dunfermline saw Hearts ousted from the Betfred Cup at the group stage. A section of supporters turned against him with chants of “Cathro, Cathro, get tae ****” during the second half.

Dunfermline won the subsequent penalty shootout 3-1 to earn a bonus point. The result saw Hearts finish third in Group B behind Dunfermline and League Two Peterhead, who beat the Edinburgh club 2-1 at Balmoor last Tuesday night.

Owner Ann Budge and director of football Craig Levein didn’t stay to watch the shootout as fans voiced their anger. The Tynecastle hierarchy discussed the situation over the weekend and are concerned about whether Cathro can turn things around.

Hearts’ Premiership campaign begins with a daunting trip to Celtic Park on Saturday. Their first four matches are away from home - the others at Kilmarnock, Rangers and Motherwell - whilst Tynecastle’s new main stand is finished. Players are also anxious about Cathro’s future after just eight wins in 30 matches since he replaced Robbie Neilson last December.

“I feel for him because we really wanted to get out of this group stage,” said the club’s vice-captain Don Cowie, who scored the opening goal at the weekend. “We should be getting out of this group stage, but the bottom line is we haven’t. The only way we can repay him is by getting off to a flyer in the league.

“We all know the timespan of a manager now is very short. It’s only natural he wants to get wins on the board. You do need time but you don’t get time. There have been spells in the last four games where we’ve looked like we’ve added real quality, but we haven’t managed to do it on a consistent basis. That does take time. You don’t get time in football.”

Cathro and his assistant Austin MacPhee signed three-and-a-half-year contracts when they took charge. They hoped for a fresh start this season after a poor second half last term but pressure is increasing.

In four Betfred Cup group games, Hearts beat Elgin City away and East Fife at home but lost at Peterhead before Saturday’s draw with Dunfermline.