Ian Cathro insists he has the final say on team matters at Hearts and Craig Levein won’t be in the dressing room against Celtic tomorrow.
The Tynecastle head coach explained that the director of football’s presence in the dressing room during half-time at Aberdeen two weeks ago did not undermine him because he calls the shots.
In an attempt to clear up ongoing confusion amongst some fans, Cathro spoke openly about the dynamics of Hearts’ football management structure. The issue reared its head again at Pittodrie when Levein was seen passing instructions to the technical area from his seat in the stand via youth coach Jon Daly. The former Scotland manager then entered the away dressing room during the interval. All of the above was captured by the BT Sport cameras.
Asked if he has full autonomy on first-team affairs even when Levein offers guidance, Cathro replied: “Entirely. That’s not a normal thing, what happened in the Aberdeen game. What’s normal is that we reach half-time, I’ll bring the staff together and we’ll spend a couple of minutes just going through what we need to go through, our feelings, our thoughts and so on. Then I go and work as normal.
“In the game against Aberdeen, there was no other access to any private area whatsoever. There was a camera following us. Of course, what we didn’t know at the time was that the story had already started therefore the camera comes in and so on. So we were left with no place for any privacy whatsoever. So, in order to avoid the creator of the story, we probably added to the story by going for privacy in what is the back of the changing room. That’s not normal.”
Cathro does not expect Levein in the dressing room tomorrow when Celtic visit Tynecastle.
“No, he never is,” continued the head coach. “We have a conversation with the staff. In the home games it’s easier because it’s our space and we know where we are. Generally there is private space for us, which is a completely normal thing. I imagine most staffs do it. Almost all I would say. That was a different situation created by – and, of course, we didn’t know it at the time – the desire to find something. We probably ended up giving them more than they bargained for by trying to avoid it.”
Cathro has stated that part of the reason he agreed to become Hearts’ head coach last December was because he knew Levein and welcomed having a director of football. The former Tynecastle captain Steven Pressley said this week that Levein should stay out of the dressing room, though.
“He does. I get that now [that element of the press coverage],” said Cathro. “There are a lot of people who know me quite well and there are guys who are getting to know me and that will take a period of time. Craig is somebody who knows me well. He knows how I work, he knows my personality. He also knows I’m quite a stubborn, single-minded, often difficult person.
“If there was any reality in some of the stuff which is obviously going on, everybody would know that it just wouldn’t work.”
Ironically, Levein is part of a generation of Scottish managers who would not have tolerated any overseeing influence.
“That category of manager wouldn’t want to work the way that I want to work,” acknowledged Cathro. “They would have waited and taken a job in a different way or a different situation. I’m here because I want this. This is normal to me. This is how I want to work.
“This is how I want to progress and develop how we operate around the football club. I believe entirely that it is the thing which will help us progress beyond where we are usually sitting. Of course, there are different things we’ve got to do first, but we will go forwards soon enough.”
Celtic’s relentlessness is well documented this season and they arrive in Edinburgh unbeaten domestically. Hearts don’t have their problems to seek after just five wins in their last 18 matches but this fixture would be the ideal one for Cathro and his players to recapture supporters’ faith. Stopping the Celtic juggernaut would be a major achievement.
“It’s an extra motivation, true, but you can’t think about it,” said the Greek centre-back Tasos Avlonitis. “We can only think about three points, that’s most important. If we beat Celtic it will be very big for everyone connected with Hearts but it will only be three points. We must take three points and go as high as we can.
“We don’t think about the opponents, just preparing to take three points from every single match we play. Okay, sometimes we will have good days or, like Aberdeen, bad days when we don’t play as well as we wanted.
“Against Celtic we’re at home and we must play as well as we can.”