Hearts’ new assistant coach Austin MacPhee revealed today that he refused the chance to become the SFA’s new performance director to work with Ian Cathro.
MacPhee will work at Tynecastle and continue as No.2 to Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill. He cited that and his friendship with Cathro as central to his decision to reject the SFA’s offer.
“The magnitude of the job of performance director for a federation is a very, very long-term project,” explained the 37-year-old. “My ideas for it were long-term as well.
“I felt that the combination of being allowed stay with Northern Ireland and work for someone who I really respect in Ian was one that took me to the path I find more exciting.
“I was at Tynecastle last week at the Rangers game. You see the direction Hearts is going. I feel we can achieve things that maybe other people don’t think we can achieve.
“Always having ambitions that are maybe just a little bit further than you can reach is important. This whole club has that. I just felt it was a journey I didn’t want to miss out on.
“Also, with Northern Ireland, I felt a great loyalty to Michael O’Neill. He has given me the opportunity to be acceptable in football, although I’ve still not cut my hair. He’s given me a lot of support, guidance and opportunity. And we are currently second in our group.
“There are targets at Hearts – which I know Ian and I have – and there is a target at Northern Ireland, which is obviously qualifying for the World Cup. It would be a lot to miss out on as a young coach.”
Cathro and MacPhee have signed three-and-a-half-year contracts and believe they can drive Hearts to a new level.
“Another great appeal about Hearts is that Hearts have a budget greater than most teams in the league, whereas Northern Ireland players play at a lower level than most teams we play against.
“With Northern Ireland, we have to be a little bit more conservative in the way we play. So that is another big appeal. Hearts will be on the front foot. I know a lot of Ian’s ideas and feel we can support them well.”