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One of the subplots of the 2016-17 Scottish football season was the appointment of Ian Cathro at Heart of Midlothian. The young coach arrived from Newcastle United to replace MK Dons-bound Robbie Neilson on the 5th December. Cathro's youthfulness and lack of a playing-career created much debate around his appointment. But despite his inexperience, there were many figures in the game who spoke glowingly of his abilities as a coach. As Cathro worked hard to educate himself in Scotland's famed coaching programme, he caught the eye of Nuno Espirito Santo, who was also studying in the country at the time. This meeting would begin a relationship that took Cathro to Rio Ave, Valencia, Wolves, and Tottenham Hotspur as Nuno's assistant. It also marked Cathro out as one of the few Scottish coaches that seemed willing to get out of their comfort zone to work abroad. His ability to adapt to different cultures and football clubs, as well as his growing reputation in certain coaching circles helped convince Hearts to gamble on him in the winter of 2016. 

Cathro had started his coaching career with Dundee United's academy in 2008 at the tender age of 22. It was during his time in United's youth setup that he helped bring along the development of Ryan Gauld and John Souttar, two of the academy's rising stars, as well as coming to the attention of the man who would appoint him at Hearts in 2016, Craig Levein. Levein was United's manager at the time, and the former Scotland boss was said to be very impressed by the young apprentice plying his trade with the youth teams. One of United's directors at the time, Stevie Campbell, had this to say of Cathro: 


"I was just astounded by him – and I really mean that word. This guy, in my opinion, was always destined for this sort of thing. He just did things so, so differently. He was working away with young boys like Souttar, Gauldy and Craig Wighton in his Cathro Clinic, and that pretty much transformed into Box Soccer, which is doing really well. Although he’s still behind Box Soccer, he’s obviously moved on to bigger and better things.

"I remember being in the room with Craig and Ian the day he was appointed as junior academy manager at United. I’ve never felt so inept in my life because those two just talked and talked about all aspects of football, and I couldn’t get a word in, which is not like me. Their relationship just grew from there.

“Craig was trying to restructure the academy and needed some help with it. He asked Ian to make up a curriculum for all the academy teams and, I’m not joking you, Ian came in the following day with the biggest curriculum you’ll ever see in your life. He must have worked right round the clock, and that’s the way he is. I think Craig has been quoted previously as saying he’d never seen anyone in youth football capable of doing what Ian was doing. People talk about innovators, but that is the perfect way to describe Ian."

After four years in Dundee United's academy, Cathro joined Rio Ave in Portugal as assistant to Nuno. Two successful years in Vila do Conde led to a move across the border with Valencia CF. Despite a strong first season in Spain, Cathro departed alongside Nuno, when the latter resigned from his post in November 2015. Two weeks later, Cathro was employed once more, this time as assistant to Steve McClaren at Newcastle United. When McClaren was sacked in March 2016, Rafael Benitez thought highly enough of the young Dundonian coach to keep him on his staff. But less than a year later, Cathro's first managerial opportunity would come along at one of the traditional clubs in his native Scotland: Heart of Midlothian. 

Cathro took over a Hearts team in a good place; well on track to repeat their European-place finish from the season before. But the second half of the 2016-17 campaign would end disastrously for the club, with Cathro only managing five wins from twenty-two league games. They ended the season fifth, twelve points behind St Johnstone in the last Europa League spot. A Scottish Cup elimination at the hands of then-Championship rivals Hibs rubbed salt in the wounds. When Hearts started the 2017-18 season by getting eliminated from the Scottish League Cup group-stage, Cathro was relieved of his duties, less than twelve months into his post. 

Then-Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers, expressed sympathy for Cathro, arguing that the Edinburgh club's transfer policy contradicted the tactical leanings of its young coach. But there were very few others in Scottish football who viewed the situation quite as sympathetically as the Northern-Irishman. Since his sacking in 2017, Cathro has been viewed as a sort of poster boy for out-of-their-depth young coaches, who are seen to be savvy with a laptop and the theoretical side of the game, but entirely inept at the man-management, people-side of things. Sky Sports Pundit and Scottish Sun columnist Kris Boyd was particularly scathing of Cathro, and recently invoked his name when discussing Shaun Maloney's appointment at Hearts' cross-town rivals Hibernian. It seems that in the space of a few months, Cathro went from being one of the most intriguing young coaches to come out of Scotland in a long time, to unhireable from a managerial point-of-view. After a year out of the game, Nuno Espirito Santo brought Cathro into the fold at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and then onto Tottenham Hotspur in 2021. The duo departed Spurs after Nuno's sacking, and Cathro has been out of work since. 


This save is going to be an attempt to continue the career of Ian Cathro within the fictional world of Football Manager 2022. At the age of only 35, Cathro still has plenty of time to fulfil his potential as a coach. Despite his relative youth, and an impressive CV as an assistant manager, I will have to rehabilitate Cathro's image as a manager in his own right. Having once been described as a "genius", there probably aren't too many clubs in Scotland's top flight that would be willing to gamble on Cathro these days. A successful spell somewhere else might open up opportunities, and Cathro could yet become one of the better Scottish managers if things go well. 

I have loaded up the following nations to begin the save: 

Scotland (down to League 2)

England (down to level 10)

Portugal (down to Campeonato Nacional Prio)

Spain (down to regional 4 preferente)

Japan (down to prefectural leagues)


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In a rare interview with a Portuguese radio show, former Hearts manager Ian Cathro insisted he won't be defined by his time in Gorgie, as he looks to press on with his career after leaving Tottenham Hotspur. Speaking in fluent Portuguese, the thirty-five year old remarked of his time in the Scottish capital: "It's something I get asked about a lot. And I think a lot of people on the outside of things assume it didn't work out because of the age factor. But I never felt the players didn't respect me or give me a chance. It was more about people buying into an idea; a way of playing the game. Because the team had been built to play one way, and I had another idea in mind, I think things never really got going. And once the results start to go against you, then comes everything else. But this is part of the business. You have to learn from it and move on to the next challenge. Hearts was a valuable experience for me, but it's not going to define my career."

Cathro's time at Hearts was marked by a downturn in results and performances, as well as rumours that he failed to command the respect of the dressing room due to his lack of experience. But the Dundee-born coach picked himself up from his Edinburgh disappointment and has since enjoyed spells in the English Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur as Nuno Espirito Santo's assistant. This latter spell came to an end recently when the Portuguese head-coach was relieved of his duties after a run of poor results. But Cathro told Portuguese radio that his old boss deserved more time to turn things around in North London: "Tottenham obviously have a lot of ambition. You can see that in the facilities they've invested in over the years, and in the fact that they've come close to winning a league title and a Champions League title in recent seasons. I think Nuno was a good appointment for the club, and in time I think he would have shown why Daniel Levy trusted him in the first place. We started the season brilliantly, and we had a rough patch heading into the autumn, but to be fired after only four months of the season felt a little premature to me. I know it's a results business, and I know managers can't expect all the time in the world at this level, but it did surprise me that Nuno was not given until the new year at least."

Cathro's appearance on the radio show could indicate a desire to return to management. It is common for out of work coaches to perform media work in order to get their name out there and into the minds of club owners. The host of the Portuguese programme picked up on this fact by asking Cathro about his plans for the future: "Here (in Portugal)? Maybe. I'm definitely open to the idea. I enjoyed my time with Rio Ave, and I feel I've developed a good understanding of the Portuguese game. But I'm certainly not against working somewhere totally new. I enjoy the challenge of working in unfamiliar environments, because you can't afford to get comfortable. If you know your surroundings, it can allow a bit of complacency to creep in. But being totally away from what feels familiar means you are always on edge, always trying to make sure everything is in order, and this brings out the best in me. I'm certainly not against continuing to work in the UK either. But there's a big world out there and I'm keen to see what it has to offer me." 


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Real Madrid Castilla CF is delighted to welcome Ian Cathro. It is hoped that the appointment of the Scottish trainer will help return the development team to its expected course of reaching the playoffs by the season's end. The club's technical director, Abian Perdomo, had these words for the new manager:

"The Real Madrid community is excited to welcome a new member today. Ian brings with him a vision that matches what the club hopes for with regards to its development teams. Real Madrid Castilla is the bridge between juvenile teams and the first team, so it is always a priority to have excellence in our Castilla backroom staff. Ian has worked in Spain before with Valencia CF and is highly regarded for his work with young players at home and abroad. We hope for a positive impact from our new Scottish recruit."

Speaking to the club website, the new Castilla trainer had this to say: 

"The opportunity to join this elite institution was simply too good to turn down. I have a background in working on the development side of things in my home country, and it is something that gives me enormous satisfaction as a coach. Working with the next generation of stars at Real Madrid is a once in a career opportunity, and when I learned of the possibility to come here, I didn't hesitate for a moment. Hopefully there will be a quick transition and we will see results improve immediately. But the bigger picture will always be firmly in mind, and that is about getting as many of these players prepared for the next step as possible. I look forward to the challenge." 

Cathro's first game in charge of Castilla will be against Brighton u-23s in the opening game of the Premier League International Cup. 

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Manager's thoughts:

"We started slowly, and the missed penalty really encouraged Brighton. But I thought our response after going behind was first-class, and from that point on the game was largely attack versus defence. Obviously when you create twenty-odd chances you want to be scoring enough to win a game, but that's the biggest criticism I can have of the players today: we weren't ruthless enough. I was happy with ninety percent of our play, though, so plenty to be positive about. But we have to make sure we turn our dominance into victories in the weeks ahead." 

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