Ian Cathro believes Hearts have been steeled by the difficult start to his managerial career and are now better placed for the second half of the season.
They face Aberdeen tonight seeking a second successive victory after Cathro’s first three games in charge failed to produce a win. The head coach stressed that those difficulties, in particular losing 3-2 at Dundee after leading 2-0, have helped forge a sense of togetherness within his squad.
He now intends to harness that during the winter break to push forward when domestic football resumes in late January.
Cathro explained that the uneasy start against Rangers, Partick Thistle and Dundee perversely helped his team before they beat Kilmarnock 4-0 on Tuesday. “I’ve learned a massive amount, to be honest. You can see little differences in the team from each game,” he told the Evening News. “I’ve managed to learn a lot about a lot of players, particularly because we’ve had some bad moments and some down moments.
“There have been difficult challenges and that tends to be when you learn most about yourself and the people around you.
“It’s a positive that we’ve managed to cram these difficulties in at the start. I’ve probably learned more about everyone and everything because we’ve experienced these tough moments right at the beginning.
“What I’ve got to do is make sure that is something valuable for us. It allows me to speed up some of the improvements we can make on the football side.”
Don Cowie could return after a combination of illness and injury precluded him from the Kilmarnock match. “It was ultimately illness which kept him out of the Kilmarnock game. That was the biggest issue,” explained Cathro.
“He’s still suffering slightly from the knock against Dundee, so he’s had a combination of things to deal with. We’ll see how he is with regards to any involvement in the Aberdeen game.”
Liam Smith will deputise for Callum Paterson at right-back having filled in at left-back in recent games. “We get more out of him on the right. That’s where he’s definitely more comfortable,” admitted Cathro. “There is a type of player who can add to his career by being comfortable on both sides, and Liam can be comfortable on both sides.
“Of course, he’s still a young developing player and his instincts and going to be a little bit quicker on the right. We respect that. He can still be competent on the left and we like to encourage that in his play.”