Ann Budge has conceded that appointing Ian Cathro as the club’s head coach was a mistake, as the Hearts owner revealed she would “love” to have Steven Naismith at the club next season.
In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland, Budge opened up over Cathro’s seven-month tenure at Tynecastle, as well as Craig Levein’s future, club finances and the chances of signing the on-loan Norwich City striker on a permanent basis.
Cathro was axed by Hearts after just seven months in post, with the club taking action after the Jambos exited the Betfred Cup at the group stage, after defeat to League Two Peterhead and losing on penalties to Dunfermline.
But despite winning just seven games out of 30 at Tynecastle, Budge remains convinced that Cathro will taste success in his future career.
“We all know what happened and therefore it’s difficult for me to say it wasn’t [a mistake],” Budge said.
“It was new, it was different, it was taking a risk, taking a chance - but everybody was behind it. I think it was something that we all bought into,” she added.
Budge believes that one of Cathro’s weaknesses was his inability to adequately explain himself in interviews.
The former Valencia and Newcastle United coach was criticised for a TV interview he gave following a 1-1 draw with Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup.
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Asked if the result was hard to take, Cathro said: “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s a situation where... How is it difficult? What’s difficult? We’ve just got to beat them again, don’t we?”
Cathro admitted in the following days that he needed to work on his communication skills - an issue highlighted by the Hearts owner.
“I think it was one of the bigger problems, the communication,” Budge said.
“He is a highly intelligent young man and I still believe he will go on to be very successful.
“But it was his ability to communicate across different levels that caused the biggest problem.”
Cathro managed just seven wins in 30 matches in charge at Tynecastle, and Budge admits that the alarm bells started ringing towards the end of the 2016/17 season.
Hearts failed to win any of their last six matches, drawing two and losing four.
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“Towards the end of last season, you could see things weren’t going quite as we hoped,” Budge recalled.
“Not a controversial statement but, the kind of coverage he was getting in the media... I was concerned for him. There’s only so much people can take, quite frankly.”
The decision to relieve Cathro of his duties was “a very difficult decision, reluctantly made” according to a club statement.
Budge also told the BBC she hopes Levein will resume his director of football duties if his second stint in charge of Hearts goes awry.
“I don’t know if he will still be loving [the managerial role] in three or four years. If for whatever reason it didn’t work, I would certainly want him back as director of football. I think he did very well,” Budge said.
The Hearts owner also revealed that the club’s financial planning doesn’t involve cup games.
She explained: “We wanted to get to Hampden, and finish no lower than fourth. Those were the targets - we don’t budget on anything from cup games, so anything we’ve earned from the cup is a bonus.”
And with FC Sion open to holding talks with Hearts over a further loan deal, or even a permanent move for Joaquim Adao, Budge is hopeful of retaining another on-loan player for next season.
“I would love to think Steven Naismith will be here next season. It’s up to him and the clubs - if we can, we certainly will.”
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