FOR Don Cowie and Hearts, it was a tale of two seasons.
Cowie enjoyed the best of times, while the Jam Tarts endured the worst.
At 34, the former Watford and Cardiff City star is savvy enough to admit results under Ian Cathro’s leadership have not been up to scratch.
He’s also experienced enough to know a talented coach when he sees one.
Cowie reckons Cathro’s ideas weren’t Hearts’ biggest weakness last season.
It was their shortage of leaders on the pitch.
But after a summer rebuild which has been boosted by the arrival of Scotland defender Christophe Berra, the veteran midfielder believes Hearts will be much harder to break.
“Obviously I didn’t enjoy the results as it was a hard six months. But I really enjoyed what the manager was trying to do,” he said.
“I liked his ideas. If I’m being honest, it was probably my best year of football in four or five years.
“In that sense, it has given me back my hunger and a feeling that I can keep going.
“But, because of the way we were, we were lacking leaders.
“The manager said it himself. There were times when I was a bit alone.
“Aaron Hughes, another experienced player, was injured for a long spell and that didn’t help. It was tough.
“Callum Paterson was out, too, and he’s played a lot of football, despite being so young.
“When you are losing games, it is difficult, mentally, and Tynecastle can be a daunting place to play.
“It’s how you react to that.
“I’m at a stage in my career where I was able to adopt a mindset that told me: ‘Look, I’m enjoying my football and if I make a mistake, it happens’.
“I just wanted to go out there and play. But you need to go through spells in your career to get to that point.
“I’ve had that and know how to react. But some of the others are new to it.
“You can sink or swim because it is intimidating.
“We have lacked leaders, guys who can deal with the pressure when things aren’t going well.”
Cowie reckons Berra’s arrival will help in that regard, as it will with the translation of Hearts’ head coach’s tactical plans.
“We just weren’t able to execute them,” said Cowie.
“Maybe we didn’t have the quality to process the details of what we were being given.
“Now they have a period of time to really look at the players we need to bring in to execute the game plan.
“Getting Christophe in is a massive signing. He is still playing for Scotland, and it’s a statement.
“He could be massive for us. But I’m not putting all the pressure on him.
“Even just for me, knowing he is coming in the door is a massive help.”
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