Tony Watt believes Hearts head coach Ian Cathro has all the credentials to work at the highest level in football.
Despite not starting a match under Cathro before his season-long loan from Charlton was cut short last month, Watt today revealed how he holds the 30-year-old in the highest esteem. He praised his training methods and coaching background from spells at Rio Ave in Portugal, Valencia in Spain and, most recently, Newcastle United. Watt is adamant Cathro will rise to the top. The Scotland striker also dismissed talk that Cathro is too young for the job at Tynecastle.
“All the people in the papers are saying he is too young but when he goes and wins ten games in a row they will be hailing him as the new messiah,” said Watt.
“That’s just how it works. People jump on you in football. If I had scored twenty goals at Hearts I would not be this little ‘whatever’. It’s just football. You can’t take it seriously.
“I think Ian Cathro will go on to have a top job in football. I was watching BT Sport and I saw people slagging him but I saw people standing up for him and I found that refreshing.
“Look at where he has been. You don’t get that experience if you don’t have a clue. Rafa Benitez [Newcastle manager] could have sacked him straight away but he didn’t. He will have a good career.
“It’s about how you come in and command a room. If he had come in and acted like a little boy you would say, ‘come on,’ but he came in and he’s done it right.
“It’s not about age. In two or three good years he will be worth a lot more than a 50-year-old or 60-year-old manager is worth. He is the right appointment.
“I spoke to Ian [after he was appointed in December] and I said to him: ‘We have a good squad with a lot of young players but we are losing to the big physical teams, like St Johnstone.’ He agreed with me.
“We had a lot of talented players but we needed leaders. We only had Don Cowie and Perry Kitchen so they have added experience and they are turning a corner.
“He’s got the right ideas and his training was fantastic. I really think he will go on and do well.”
Watt stressed that Cathro is a different character to the man he will confront at Tynecastle this Sunday, Hibs manager Neil Lennon. Watt played under the Northern Irishman at his formative club, Celtic.
“I was young when I played under Neil Lennon but he had his own philosophy as well and got the team playing. That Celtic team was one of the best I’ve played in,” he recalled.
“Ian Cathro has a different style but they are both confident in their methods and they both want to win. They are different characters. It’s Ian Cathro’s first job and, despite people talking about his man-management skills, he knew how to get into someone’s head.
“He had a good way of taking people to the side to tell them they were doing it or not doing it. He’s only 30 but his age doesn’t matter. If you can relate to someone and they’re nice to you, then you have to respect them.
“If they were 50 years old and didn’t have a good manner, then you wouldn’t respect them. It’s not about the age, it’s about respect. I didn’t start a game under Ian Cathro but I honestly couldn’t speak more highly of him.
“There was a lot of criticism when he first came in but I was very impressed. I didn’t think about the age. He was good with me. He comes across as being quiet but he’s got it in him to get angry. You need to have that as a football manager. He’s certainly not weak.
“Neil Lennon’s angry side was maybe a bit more obvious but I couldn’t say a bad word about him, either. He is the one who gave me my chance and threw me in against Motherwell for my Celtic debut. He gave me a chance in the big games.
“I owe Neil Lennon a lot and it will be interesting to see the two going head-to-head on Sunday. Hibs are in a situation now where every team is out to beat them because it’s a cup final for all their opponents and that is difficult.
“Neil has been asked to take them up, they are at the top of the Championship and I’m sure they’ll give Hearts a good game at Tynecastle. It’s a close one to call. Hearts have got a new team and they need to gel.”