Cup can wait – Caley come first for Hearts and Cathro

Hearts manager Ian Cathro
Hearts manager Ian Cathro
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Hearts players are focusing solely on today’s league match with Inverness Caledonian Thistle despite an impending Scottish Cup replay with Hibs at Easter Road.

Head coach Ian Cathro stressed that his squad cannot afford to look beyond this afternoon’s fixture at home to the Highlanders because points are vital.

The Edinburgh club sit fourth in the Ladbrokes Premiership and are aiming to close in on the top three by beating the league’s bottom side. They head to Leith on Wednesday night for a rematch with Hibs but Cathro has told everyone to ignore that game for now.

“When there is a game with such a spotlight on it, it’s always going to be in the back of everyone’s minds slightly. We aren’t going to lie about that,” he told the Evening News.

“However, there’s no lack of focus on what’s important, and what’s important is the Inverness game. That is the single thing that we are concentrating on right now.

“We’ve brought players together, they’ve had some time now, and they’ve done what I expected, really. We’re going to improve and the defence will continue to improve.”

Midfielder Don Cowie remains an injury doubt due to sore ribs following a collision with Hibs’ Darren McGregor in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Tynecastle.

“We’re looking at that day-by-day. He’s still dealing with a bit of pain. I would say he’s 50/50 to face Inverness,” said Cathro.

The Dundonian also mounted a strong defence of the director of football position following news that Rangers are considering employing someone in that role.

Hearts have worked that structure well since Craig Levein was appointed director of football in 2014. Nonetheless, the role is still viewed with much cynicism across Scottish football.

Cathro has coached in Portugal and Spain and believes the suspicions are beyond belief. “I think we’re obsessed with this idea that the director of football sits in an office which is more grand than the manager, a level above the manager, he looks down on him – and threatens him with evil spirits,” he joked.

“That’s not how it works. I truly just don’t understand why we have this Scottish issue with it. Maybe it’s just not the norm here. In England, certainly in the Premier League, whether or not they have the title, there are people at all the big clubs doing that job.

“It would be impossible to run the operation without it. Impossible.

“Director of football, bullet point one: Managing overall football strategy. That is probably all it is – the management of an overall football strategy for the club.

“Within that there will be recruitment, the academy, staffing, all of those things. The overall strategy, with a business aspect to it as well, is for the director of football.

“Then it’s just normal business, heads of different departments. There is no club or business I’ve ever been involved in that does it differently.

“What causes the confusion, causes the debate that we can’t shake in this country, is the idea that the existence of a director of football somehow dilutes the strength or role of the manager/head coach.

“I’ve never seen that. That’s just not how it works.”