Hearts: Ian Cathro ran out of time and focus is on Craig Levein to get successor right

Hearts director of football Craig Levein, left, and Ian Cathro
Craig Levein, left, appointed Ian Cathro and shares the blame for his failure

After five games of his reign as Hearts coach - one win, one draw and three losses - Ian Cathro was asked to give himself marks out of 10 in the job so far.

"A big fat zero," he replied, before saying that things were going to improve at Tynecastle - and quickly.

He urged fans to get on board because they wouldn't want to "miss this part of the journey" only to turn up at the station later on when Hearts, rebuilt and successful, arrived at Nirvana. "I know very clearly where we want to go," said Cathro.

Throughout his time in the capital, even when the funeral march was playing at Tynecastle on Saturday, he sounded like a man who knew, as a matter of fact, that he would get it right in the end.

Cathro and the Hearts support were as one in the beginning. The fans embraced him in part because he was young and had coached in some exciting places. It appealed to them that their club were appointing a fresh face rather than one of the old guard. They were doing things differently. That went down well at Tynecastle.

They loved the narrative of Cathro's young life. "Leaving home, going to Portugal (to Rio Ave), not a word of Portuguese, a young guy, 24 or 25 at the time," he said in January. "Not an awful lot of life experience. Probably more football experience than life experience at that point. Every aspect of life there demanded that you grow up. That was a very valuable thing."

They also railed against those who criticised the appointment. There was a proper hubbub - the "laptop manager" debate.

Former Hearts manager Robbie Neilson
Robbie Neilson's final game in charge was a win over Rangers that left Hearts second top of the Premiership

Everybody saw Cathro's appointment as a gamble, but some thought it worth taking and others didn't. There was a lot said about his lack of personality and his likely inability to command a dressing room as a manager, as opposed to his previous life as a coach working under a manager.

When Robbie Neilson left Hearts for MK Dons in December, the Edinburgh club were sitting in second place in the league. It was a bit of a false position. Few at Tynecastle would have wagered a brass farthing on them finishing in the top two or three.

Cathro came in and change happened around him. If he's deserving of sympathy, then here it is. Callum Paterson, one of Hearts' best players and one of their chief providers of goals, got a serious injury and never played under his new manager. Igor Rossi, who played in Neilson's last match, a 2-0 win over Rangers, left the club in January, as did Alim Ozturk. Faycal Rherras, another member of the defence against Rangers, exited for the Africa Cup of Nations. So, too, Arnaud Djoum, the most forceful midfielder at the club.

Whatever stability Hearts had went out of the window. They signed players in great flurries. Few worked out.

As director of football, Craig Levein has to take a share of the blame for what the club became in January.

Cathro's Hearts record

For four days in February, there were signs of hope when Hearts beat Rangers 4-1 and then beat Motherwell 3-0, but that respite didn't last. When Hearts drew 0-0 with Hibs in the Scottish Cup on 12 February they had seven January signings in their starting line-up. When they got knocked out 3-1 in the replay, those same seven newcomers started again - and an eighth new player came off the bench.

This was a club in an unfocused mess. In the aftermath of that horrendous loss to Hibs, a senior figure at Hearts expressed fear that the fans would never forgive Cathro for losing to their city rivals.

'He was uncomfortable and prone to odd comments'

The environment at Tynecastle, with its conveyor belt in and out of the dressing room, can't be ignored in the Cathro post-mortem. Managing Hearts was always going to be a monumentally hard job - their fans are ruthlessly demanding - but managing them through this turbulence would have tested a veteran never mind a rookie.

Cathro knew that he was a poor communicator in front of the cameras. He was uncomfortable and prone to extremely odd comments. He backed his own ability to get the job done on the training ground, though. That's where he said he was most at ease. That's where he thought he was going to make a difference.

Had that been the case, and discernible improvement resulted on the pitch in matches, then he would have bought himself time to improve his shortcomings, to mature as a manager. There was no sign of any improvement. After such a grim time of it last season he needed a fast start to this campaign. Hearts have been awful.

Out of one competition already, booed off on Saturday, lacking in all parts of the pitch - there was no case for him, no hope of survival.

Hearts lose to Hibernian in the Scottish Cup
One senior figure at Hearts feared fans would never forgive Ian Cathro for the Scottish Cup defeat by Hibernian

The attention now turns to the next appointment. Hearts' preference with Neilson and Cathro was for young managers trying to make their way. That model might change now. Hearts can't afford to take another Cathro-esque risk on a novice.

There's been much talk about whether the new manager "can work with Levein as director of football", but Levein knows he has to make it work. His neck is on the line as well. If it's Peter Houston, Tommy Wright, Michael O'Neill, Paul Hartley or anybody else on the shortlist then Levein will have to adapt to the new manager. He can't allow himself to become a barrier.

In January, Cathro spoke about his football philosophy, then checked himself mid-sentence and said: "Without winning, everything else is a waste of time." So true.

Hearts have a big and loyal support, a magnificent stadium in development and a clear focus in all areas bar the stuff that happens on the grass at Tynecastle. It's not just a new stand they need to construct - it's an optimism among those who are going to be sitting in it.