Ian Cathro: Hearts players must cope with high expectations

Hearts head coach Ian Cathro wants his players to rise to the challenge. Pic: SNS
Hearts head coach Ian Cathro wants his players to rise to the challenge. Pic: SNS
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Hearts boss: Players must learn how to live with high expectations

Saturday’s Betfred Cup exit against Dunfermline saw calls for Cathro to be sacked as players and management were criticised by home fans. Cathro insisted everyone is accountable for the failure.

He admitted some players failed to perform in the 2-2 draw with the Championship club, which saw Hearts eliminated from the competition’s group phase. They finished third in Group B behind Dunfermline and League Two Peterhead following a shock 2-1 loss at Balmoor last Tuesday.

Cathro suffered abuse during Saturday’s game as supporters vented their anger in his direction, while players were also criticised.

“We play at a big, wonderful, very important club in this country. Everybody has to be ready to live with those expectations,” said the 31-year-old.

“There are players whose performances were below their normal levels. There’s no doubt about that. Individually, technically, people were below where they should be all around the pitch. Otherwise it would’ve been a different outcome.

“When we’re behind, or the game isn’t going well, or they start to feel the anger or the tension in the stadium, it’s something they need to be able to deal with. If they want to progress or move on to higher levels, it’s something they have to be able to manage.

“I’ve been in angrier stadiums before. We are angry and disappointed. It’s a performance and result which is far from acceptable and not good enough.”

Asked about people’s comments towards him, Cathro replied: “I don’t have a reaction to it. I don’t react to these things. My work and my responsibility is to support the players, their individual development and assess what needs to be done in the team. I don’t waste time reacting to those things.”

Cathro stressed he doesn’t feel under pressure despite the unexpected early cup exit. However, he feels the only message he can give disgruntled supporters is through improvement on the field.

“I don’t really have a right to give them a message. I’ve got to continue to be professional, to work, and to make improvements on the pitch. The fans can have reactions to improvements on the pitch,” he said.

“We are accountable. I am accountable. I don’t feel any more pressure than what I feel at any other game. I know I’m accountable, I know I’m responsible, I know Saturday was not good enough.

“Just because somebody shouts louder, or just because there are four times more press than usual, it doesn’t make me feel any different.”

Hearts left winger Jamie Walker out of their matchday squad altogether for what was a must-win game. Cathro explained that his performances in games and training have not been up to standard recently amid transfer offers from Rangers.

“Jamie is a young talented player who this club will continue to support,” said Cathro. “There has been a remarkable degree of speculation and attention on him. Initially, he dealt with it well but he’s struggled to maintain his focus and performance levels.

“He has to understand that there are levels that need to be matched on a daily basis with us. If that’s not the case, then you don’t have your place in the squad.”