Lay off Cathro, Aaron Hughes tells critics of Hearts boss
Aaron Hughes has leapt to the defence of his Hearts manager Ian Cathro, suggesting criticism of the 30-year-old has been unwarranted.
Northern Ireland international Hughes, 37, will be back in Edinburgh next season after extending his short-term deal with the Jambos, who finished fifth in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
They therefore missed out on European football, with ex-Valencia and Newcastle assistant Cathro winning just six of the 26 games he took charge of following his surprise appointment at the start of December.
However, former Fulham and Newcastle defender Hughes has been impressed by Cathro and has gone to bat for a boss who has his doubters due to a lack of experience, both as a player and as a boss.
"He is a very good manager and I'm not saying that because I play for Hearts," Hughes said.
"From my first meeting with him I really got a good feel from it, with the things he was saying, how he sees the team progressing, where he wants to take them, his ambition.
"He has great intensity in training and his attention to detail is very impressive. With the levels and standards that he wants from training, you can see why he has worked at the clubs he has worked.
"He has worked at top level and he is trying to bring that in at Hearts as well. Results, unfortunately, haven't reflected that at times and it has been a bit frustrating.
"Also from the off there has been a lot of criticism without there being any reason behind it. He's been fighting that from the start. He's never shirked responsibility and at the same time it is up to the players too to do their job when they cross the white line.
"I have really enjoyed working under him in the last six months. Signing another year tells you that I want to continue working under Ian. I'm very motivated by the things he wants to do.
"He is very confident in where we are going and what we are doing. That is the side that other people don't see because all you see is what reported and the nasty side, so to speak. It gets frustrating and annoying that they never seem to let things go.
"For some reason he is a target until he starts getting the results and that is where the responsibility falls on the players to take the good things we are doing in training out onto the pitch and show people what we are all about."
Hughes has prolonged his playing career in Scotland after spells in Australia and India with a view to helping his country reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
An injury to Craig Cathcart means Hughes could earn a 106th international cap in Azerbaijan this week, and the veteran defender is confident Michael O'Neill's squad can overcome a casualty list that features eight players from their Euro 2016 squad.
"We've got a bit more depth and lads who are playing regular at their clubs - that's probably what's changed over the last few years," Hughes added.
"That's a big thing to do and it's something Michael always spoke about.
"We've no fears in that respect of having to chop and change or bring lads in when lads drop out."