Ian Cathro confirmed that Sam Nicholson will be disciplined for “foolishly” spitting in the direction of an assistant referee during Hearts’ 1-0 defeat by St Johnstone on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old was sent off at McDiarmid Park after he spat towards linesman Stephen Mitchell while arguing about the award of a foul throw against him.
Cathro acknowledges that the player did not intend to spit on the official, but believes the winger can have no excuse for an “unacceptable” act which left his team with ten men.
“Sam has recognised the mistake that he has made,” said the head coach. “He has apologised to me, he has apologised to his team-mates. He is guilty of a stupid action, stupid behaviour through frustration, which affected the team.
“The most important thing for all of us is that our job is to always be adding to the strength of the team. Then when a player drops below a level and starts to hurt the team, that’s completely unacceptable. Sam accepts that. We will deal with it privately.”
Although condemning Nicholson’s stupidity, Cathro is adamant the player shouldn’t be vilified.
“It would be completely wrong to paint him as someone who has that sort of darkness that we associate with spitting,” he said. “There wasn’t a direct attempt to spit on someone. It was a stupid gesture through frustration in a moment where he had lost himself from the game.
“Let’s not take it too far. It was foolish, it was stupid, it’s a mistake, it caused us problems. We are not happy about it by any means. It’s unacceptable for one of our players to be in that position but it’s important that it doesn’t get dragged on too far and all of a sudden we’re calling him the devil because that’s not true either. He’s a young, immature player who has done a foolish, stupid thing which is unacceptable to the team and to the club. He will be disciplined privately and internally, but let’s leave it at that.”
In addition to the banned Nicholson, Hearts are set to be without defenders Aaron Hughes and Lennard Sowah through injury against Dundee today. Striker Esmael Goncalves is battling to overcome a niggle he sustained in midweek, while midfielder Arnaud Djoum returns to contention after missing the past two games with an ankle knock.