Ian Cathro: Valencia to Newcastle is not a step back

By Richard WintonBBC Sport
Ian Cathro
Cathro will be in charge of planning and delivering training sessions

Ian Cathro will be confirmed as Steve McClaren's assistant at Newcastle within the next 48 hours.

The 28-year-old will sign his contract on Tuesday and will be in place as pre-season training starts on Wednesday.

The Scot left Valencia in May but said leaving Champions League football for a club who narrowly avoided Premier League relegation is a positive move.

"It's a forward step to a different type of football. Not stronger or weaker, different," he told BBC Sport.

Champions League or Premier League?

Cathro decided in February to vacate his role at Valencia - a position that seems likely to be filled by former Manchester United assistant Phil Neville - partly because he was keen to be closer to his family in Dundee, but also because he was eager to become a manager in his own right.

Indeed, he was only dissuaded from doing so a year previously when head coach Nuno Espirito Santo asked his assistant to join him in making the move from Portuguese top flight side Rio Ave to Valencia.

Nuno Santo and Ian Cathro
Cathro, right, assisted Nuno Santo as Valencia held off Sevilla to finish fourth in La Liga

But Cathro, who held talks with Rangers before the appointment of Mark Warburton as the Ibrox club's manager, refused to entertain suggestions that accepting a role on the Newcastle staff was at odds with his stated ambitions.

"I wanted a fresh challenge and didn't want to just sit it out over there and wait for the right manager's job to come up," he said.

"To come into British football as a manager with no experience of working with English-speaking players is perhaps not advisable anyway so this makes perfect sense."

Newcastle a risky choice?

Ill-feeling and despair enveloped St James' Park last season, with fans angered by an apparent lack of interest and ambition on the part of owner Mike Ashley.

However, Ashley's assurances over his commitment, promise of more investment and the appointment of McClaren have lifted spirits and convinced Cathro of the club's potential.

Newcastle fans protest
Newcastle fans spent much of last season protesting against Mike Ashley

"Steve coming in has brought a freshness and enthusiasm to get the club back to where it should be and serve the love that exists for it," Cathro added.

"I'm convinced that it's a club willing to grow and would be comfortable higher in the league. It's now ready to do that."

No stranger to success

A parallel could be drawn with the Valencia that Cathro discovered upon his arrival. The club were in flux off the pitch and floundering on it, having failed to qualify for European football the previous season.

By the time he left 12 months later, the Mestalla outfit were in the Champions League qualifying round.

It is a lot to leave behind, but Cathro has no regrets.

"I'm completely comfortable with it," he said. "I'm going to watch Valencia in the Champions League and in La Liga and enjoy them playing in wonderful games in great stadiums.

"But I've no fear of missing out because the intention is to go to that level again. If that was with Newcastle, that would be perfect, but if not I'll certainly be back working abroad in the next five to 10 years."

Valencia celebrate
Valencia finished fourth last season, behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid

The Rangers connection?

Such confidence was partly what attracted Rangers to Cathro during their search for a new manager.

It had been suggested that his decision to leave Spain was informed by that interest but the former Dundee United youth coach is adamant that the initial contact and two informal meetings with Ibrox directors Paul Murray and John Gilligan only came after he had decided to return to Scotland.

"I was interested in the uniqueness of the challenge," he said. "And it would be foolish not to talk to them, but it may not have been the correct conditions for me to begin as a manager and perhaps they adopted a similar view.

"It was a positive experience and I'd wish them well because they demonstrated that they were keen to really look at what caused the issues on the football side in the past and build something different."

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