Ian Cathro insists Hearts’ nine January signings do not represent a drastic overhaul as he considers handing another three players debuts against Rangers tonight.
Greek midfielder Alexandros Tziolis, defender Tasos Avlonitis and Portuguese striker Esmael Goncalves are all in contention for this evening’s Ladbrokes Premiership match at Tynecastle.
All three arrived on Monday as Cathro took his number of January recruits to nine. Striker Conor Sammon departed Hearts last night after agreeing a loan move back to former club Kilmarnock until the summer.
The head coach maintained that, after Tony Watt, Igor Rossi, Alim Ozturk, Robbie Muirhead and Juanma Delgado also left, so many incomings was necessary.
“I think drastic would have been doing it if it wasn’t necessary,” said Cathro. “We were a short squad, we needed to bring in players, and also players left us. I think the bigger concern for me would have been had we not done what we have done.
“We would have arrived at tonight and felt short and lacking in options because we need them. Now we are in a position where we can feel more comfortable with the options we have, with the balance that is inside the squad. And now, yeah, we can put that away and come back to football.
“Nothing has been a surprise or a rush to any of us, sometimes it is just the period of time these things take. We’ve put ourselves in the market to get players who are good players, naturally those good players have other options.
“So part of the process is convincing them that the right thing is to come here. With all due respect to us and Scottish football, sometimes it is not easy. That’s probably been the thing which has resulted in it being later in the month and three players arriving in the one day. But these things have been a work in progress for some time.”
Right-back Andraz Struna remains an injury doubt this evening, whilst new arrival Avlonitis has not played for six months since leaving former club Olympiakos.
Asked how many of the new arrivals will face Rangers, Cathro replied: “I don’t know. We will look at everyone we have available and we will look at what we think is the best way to play.
“If the guys are ready to play then I will make the decision. I come back to the point that we are not bringing in completely unknown entities. We are bringing in guys who know how to play football and who have played football before.
“There’s not a degree of uncertainty about them as there maybe would be with a different signings. The whole getting the dynamics of everyone together is always the process, but it should be more straightforward because we have brought in some players who are ready to play.
“Not everything needs to happen tonight, we need to do the right things and manage the players as they get back to a level of competition in the case of Tasos and, also, Andraz.”
Cathro was at pains to stress that such a heavy recruitment drive will not limit opportunities for young players at Hearts. “Not at all. Last weekend we had six players on the pitch [against Celtic] who have come through the club’s academy. That’s something that will always be important to this club,” he stated.
“We want to improve. This doesn’t close any doors to our young players. What it does mean is that they need to work even harder to become better. We have not made too many long-term acquisitions, which was important. That’s us doing what we consider is the right thing.
“Nothing is completely closed but that [commitment to youth development] is something that will never change at this football club - from me, from whoever comes afterwards to 40 or 50 years later. I don’t think that will ever change.”