Any doubts over Ian Cathro’s ability to command respect from Hearts players is dispersed by Perry Kitchen, the club captain.
The new head coach met his squad for the first time at Riccarton on Tuesday and instantly impressed.
Cathro didn’t play professionally but boasts a top CV having coached at Rio Ave in Portugal, Valencia and Spain and Newcastle United in England. He assumed the reins from Robbie Neilson and Stevie Crawford and makes his managerial debut tomorrow when Hearts visit Rangers.
“His background is pretty impressive. That he didn’t play at a high level has no bearing on his ability to be a great coach. I think he will be great,” said Kitchen
“When he came into the dressing room for that first time to address the team, there was a presence about him.
“There was a confidence about him, a swagger, a belief that he was the right guy for the job – and that his ideas, his philosophies, were really going to benefit us. Over the past couple of days, it already has.
“As soon as Robbie and Stevie made their way south [to MK Dons], everyone in that dressing room had confidence in the front office to appoint the right people. I think they have. They’re not going to put us in a bad situation, they’re going to look to build on what Robbie and Stevie have done.”
At 30, Cathro is the youngest manager in Scotland. He is little older than some of Hearts’ senior players but his astute coaching techniques are those of someone ahead of his years.
“I think there is a benefit in having a younger coach,” continued Kitchen. “When we saw Ian in the dressing room and he took us out to training, nobody was thinking about his age. We were very aware of how it’s going to be. He’s the coach. He’s in command. He’s out there barking orders.
“You don’t stand there and think: ‘Oh, this guy is only 30.’ You don’t think that at all. He has a confidence, he has the right ideas and he has demanded the respect of his players from an early stage.
“The message he delivered to us was emphasising that it’s not a situation where everything has to be blown up here.
“It’s not as if the coaches have been fired. He said: ‘Look, I just want to build on what Robbie and Stevie have done for you. Of course, there will be little changes, just to get us to even a higher level. It’s been a pretty smooth transition.”
Kitchen and his colleagues already had an idea of what to expect of Cathro. John Souttar was coached by him as a teenager at Dundee United.
“I spoke to John as soon as it was announced and he said great things. He told us that, with his background in Portugal, he wants to play, wants to move the ball quick. That has definitely been evident in the first few sessions we’ve had.”
Kitchen’s native league in America regularly gives young coaches opportunities, such as Ben Olsen. He took charge of DC United at 33, a year before Kitchen broke into the side.
“It’s common in MLS for guys to go from being club legends as players straight into coaching. Ben was a young coach. I didn’t have much to compare it to because it was my first professional team. It was a great experience and Ben has done a great job. To hold a job anywhere for over two or three years in this day and age is pretty impressive – and he’s going into this seventh season.”