IAN CATHRO made sure the clear message he delivered after a rank bad day in Aberdeen was that nobody told him what to do at Hearts and the final decision on the team will always be his.

But the only messages which counted for the Hearts head coach in terms of how he is viewed, rightly or wrongly, were the ones delivered by Craig Levein in letter and verbal form at Pittodrie in terms of the director of football passing notes from his seat in the stand to the bench, and then later seen going into his team’s dressing room at half-time.

Cathro doesn’t understand why this is a story and perhaps people like myself have got the wrong end of the stick. Maybe it is right and proper such an experienced man such as Levein, a former Hearts manager, can send tactical observations to the ‘head coach’ during a match and also come into players’ sanctuary.

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Why he does this, we must presume, is not to get a cup of tea.

For the past two-and-a-half years or so, whenever it was suggested that Levein was the one calling the shots at Tynecastle, first with Robbie Neilson and now with Cathro, Hearts fans would rage against such a notion believing it to be a falsehood and it being an unnecessary dig at their club.

Well what can now be said with indisputable certainty is that Levein has a big say on team matters, which from the outside looking in makes the man who is supposed to be in charge weak.

Quite a few have jumped to the defence of this set-up suggesting it would actually be wrong for Levein not have an input. But do you think Brendan Rodgers would put up with little notes being passed down to him during a game?

When Cathro, a 30-year-old who had never been the front-man, was appointed, Hearts were second in the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership. They were a team full of fight, togetherness and could play a bit as well.

Now they will do well to finish fourth and were knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Hibernian who outclassed their city rivals. Saturday was match 17 under the new regime. They have won just five times and this includes beating Motherwell after they had a man sent off and Raith Rovers after extra time in cup a replay.

This set-up worked when Hearts won promotion from the Championship and, by and large, for the season and a bit Nielson led the team in the Premiership. But it’s not working at the moment.

What must the players think? There is a young inexperienced guy telling them what to do and then in comes the big boss to also tell them what to do. Cathro may claim that he’s in charge and if this is the case then why is Levein, second only to owner Ann Budge in the Hearts hierarchy, acting like an extra assistant coach?

“Directed hysteria,” is how Cathro described the questions about Levein’s role after the 2-0 defeat on Saturday, which incidentally it wasn’t, but he should have been happy about some misdirection in that this chat because it took away from the fact his team were dreadful.

Time and again Aberdeen robbed their opponents of the ball, they out-passed them, got behind their back four, coped easily with lone frontman Esmael Goncalves and dealt with the hard tackles dished out by their opponents.

“It was very good. Right from the start of the match we set a good tempo, which Hearts didn’t enjoy at all,” said Aberdeen’s exceptional Kenny McLean about the match.

“We stopped them and to a man we were excellent. Hearts are a good side but it was us who made them look very average with the way we went about our game-plan.

“We played in the right areas and we got in about them. We didn't give them a minute and that’s what we have been doing to teams here and why we are on the run we are on. It’s been excellent and hopefully we can continue until the end of the season.

"I don’t think we can do much more. But it could be a great season for the players and everyone involved with the club. It would be a great season to win silverware. That’s what we are aiming for but we have a massive game in the semi-final against Hibs.”

For all that Hearts were bad, Aberdeen were really good. Derek McInnes is a good manager and, funnily enough, doesn’t need help from anyone upstairs to ensure his ream are the second best in the country.

McInnes spoke after the match about the honest which comes out of his players and it’s clear what he means. This is the best Aberdeen side since the won which under Willie Miller gave Rangers a run for their money in the early 1990s.

Celtic need a challenge and right now that can really only going to come from the North East.