CRAIG LEVEIN still believes Hearts have appointed the “right guy” in Ian Cathro – despite the rookie boss’ nightmare start to his managerial career.
The 30-year-old has mustered just six wins from his first 26 games in charge at Tynecastle.
And his prospects for next season have already suffered a blow after Levein confirmed talisman Jamie Walker has decided he sees his future away from Gorgie.
But the Jambos director of football – the man who got his big break in coaching at former club Dundee United – admits he has to take a share of the blame for the slump which saw Hearts slide from second in the table when former boss Robbie Neilson quit back in November to ultimately missing out on a Europa League slot as they limped home in fifth.
Levein reckons the club’s poor recruitment over the past 12 months is the real reason for that decline and stressed Cathro will be given time to get things right.
Asked to sum up the club’s campaign as he met the media for his annual debrief, the former Hearts manager said: “Frustrating and a tad disappointing. Was it a disaster? No. What’s important now is to make sure things are correct going into the new season.
“I would point to recruitment (for why things went wrong). We’ve had six transfer windows since the club came out of administration. Four of them have been really good, the last two haven’t. That’s an area in which we obviously have to do much better.
“There’s been quite a furore surrounding Ian’s appointment and subsequent matches. People have been very quick to pick holes in his results which, in the business we’re in is going to happen.
“One thing we have is patience. We believe the experience he has gained in the last five months will hold him in good stead going into next season.
“Looking forward, my interest is in giving Ian the best possible chance of being successful next season. What’s happened we can learn from. It’s been a bit of a baptism of fire for him but we’ll support him.
“Is he under pressure? Not as far as I’m aware. We’re very confident we’ve got the right guy.”
Cathro has had to deal with more scrutiny than the average Ladbrokes Premiership manager, with much of the intrigue sparked by his unusual route to the dug-out.
His miserable record has hardly helped but there is another level of interest added to the mix by Levein’s match-day presence.
The former Scotland boss is charged with shaping the football operation at Tynecastle, while Cathro is tasked with day-to-day running off the first-team.
However the sight of Levein passing messages down to the young coach from the directors box has led to whispers about who is really calling the shots in the dressing room – something Levein was keen to shoot down.
He said: “I just laughed when I saw those comments. There were never any notes passed, trust me. That’s not true.
“From day one with Robbie the exact same thing happened at every match and I just laugh when people all of a sudden make it a thing. It’s part of the baggage you’ve got to carry if you’re not winning matches. But it is a lot of s***e.
“Ian’s tough. He’s been through a lot of things in his life that have been uncomfortable. He moved abroad at an early age, didn’t speak the language, he had to learn that. He’s had to get players at top clubs to trust him.
“The thing about here is the players like him. They like him, he’s great with them. I’ve got high hopes for him.
“For him to be a real success here we need to give him time and let him understand what this is all about. Then we can let him go and play how he wants to play, but we need to fix some other things first.”
Levein has promised the problems with recruitment will be addressed this summer.
The re-signing of defender Christophe Berra is the opening phase of a plan that will see a “Scottish spine” added to the squad.
The potential loss of Walker will worry supporters but Levein admits it is a situation the club may not be able to avoid.
“There comes a point with every player if we get an offer that’s deemed to be acceptable then we’ll look at that,” admitted Levein.
“Ian has gone through quite an extensive discussion with Jamie about staying. He said he’s been here a long time and he feels like it’s time for him to move on. These are circumstances that happen.”
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