Ian Cathro has vowed that any summer transfer activity will not result in Hearts starting next season in a state of flux.
The Tynecastle side club recruited nine new players in January – none of them Scots – while Robbie Muirhead, Conor Sammon, Tony Watt, Alim Ozturk and Igor Rossi moved on. Results since suggest the mid-season shake-up has had a damaging effect on Hearts’ season as they have slipped to fifth in the Premiership, lost five of their last six matches and won only one of their last eight.
Head coach Cathro remains adamant that Hearts’ widely-criticised January transfer blitz was driven by a need for increased competition across the squad as well as serious injuries to key men John Souttar and Callum Paterson. Given the underwhelming impact of most of the new recruits and the fact several members of the squad are out of contract in the summer, supporters are already braced for another busy transfer window. Cathro confirmed there will be changes, but was reluctant to entertain talk of a major close-season overhaul.
“I don’t see any situation that involves words like ‘major rebuild’,” said the head coach ahead of tonight’s crucial trip to Europa League rivals St Johnstone.
“Will there be players coming and going? Yeah. That is a normal thing for the vast majority of clubs in this league now. It is difficult for clubs to give out long contracts and that is not a Hearts-specific thing or the fact we were busy in January, which was driven by the fact we were light on players. I don’t think our situation is that different from anyone else’s.”
Cathro insists Hearts will enter next season in a more settled state than they found themselves after the January window closed because he will have time to work with any new recruits on the training pitch before pitching them into battle.
“Ask any coach in the world who spends time on the training pitch, pre-season is one of the most important things you have,” Cathro said. “It is difficult in this league because pre-season is a lot shorter than it is in most other countries but it is still the time you have away from competition to spend with the team and prepare them for what they have in front of them. That will be important and the summer window is different in nature to what you can do in January, partly because of what you have in front of you midway through the season and partly because of time. It is a much easier process to do what you have to do.”
Cathro acknowledges why many supporters feel they can’t relate to the current group of players because so many have arrived on short-term deals and failed to deliver. However, he is adamant this situation will be rectified in due course.
“It is a valid feeling for someone to have but I think what is just as important is that there is a team and the bench is full,” he said. “It is important that was recognised and we did what we had to do because of the circumstances. The negatives just now are the results and the inconsistencies. That’s where there is a warranted negativity. But January was something we needed to do. The bit of the market we operate in and the fact it was the January market points you in the direction of more short-term solutions to see us through a period of time. The summer is different so we can all recognise that.”