They had been going through a bit of a lean spell and their move to appoint this shoe salesman whose own playing career was short-lived at a lower level raised a few eyebrows.
Some said this was a crazy move and that the club would regret appointing such a man who had the audacity to take up coaching without having a prolonged spell at the top as a player.
By the time he left this club, Arrigo Sacchi had led Milan to two European Cups and a Serie A title before going on to manage Italy where he became a penalty shootout away from becoming a World Cup winner.
Around the 1990s, there was a PE teacher who despite having played a few seasons at lower league level, was not going to progress much further than that as a player.
He decided coaching would be a new path for him to try in order to stay in football.
However, it would be his skill in speaking English as a foreign language that would give him his coaching break when he was appointed by a Portuguese club to help their new English-speaking manager.
Bobby Robson gave the young Jose Mourinho the platform to learn and practise the art of coaching and eventually, he would be ready to become a manager in his own right.
Mr Mourinho has been one of football's most successful managers ever since.
Now imagine if back in the fledgling days of their respective coaching careers, Messrs Sacchi and Mourinho had decided to look for a job in Scotland.
Going by the reaction of a few people this past week - especially the likes of Jamie Fullarton and Kris Boyd - the pair would still be selling shoes and planning PE classes respectively.
Fullarton - the managerial mastermind that was once in charge of Notts County for two months before being sacked - launched a scathing review of new Hearts manager Ian Cathro's chances of being successful at Tynecastle.
The 30-year-old Cathro has built up a reputation based on his work in Scotland, Portugal, Spain and England as one of the finest coaches in Europe.
A step up to management has long been expected of the Dundonian and it has come with the Hearts post.
Yet for Fullarton - now a hot air waffler for BBC Radio Scotland's Sportsound programme - last week shot down Cathro's credentials.
He referred to him as an assistant coach at Newcastle in all but name and labelled him as the guy who hands out the bibs and puts down the cones in training.
Fullarton went on to describe Cathro as being "aloof" and "too quiet" - a claim based solely on one meeting between the pair eight years ago.
Eight years ago. A 22-year-old's character can develop and change by the time he hits 30. Fullarton was implying that Cathro's personality would not be suited for communicating tactics to players.
The man Cathro will replace, Robbie Neilson, was - going by his press interviews - as quiet and aloof as one can be.
Yet he was able to convey his message to his Hearts side that won promotion and would subsequently win a place in Europe the following year.
Fullarton though wants to create the impression that Hearts will be getting a man who wouldn't say boo to a goose. Yet Mr Cathro seems able to speak eloquently here.
Watching that clip would suggest that Fullarton's dislike of Cathro might stem from something personal instead of being professionally-related.
Then we had rent-a-gob Kris Boyd who has already made a mug of himself this season with his armchair punditry.
Boyd - famous for being slower than grass when at Middlesbrough - has been howling with derision at Cathro's use of modern technology to improve the coaching side of the game.
The current Kilmarnock striker said of Cathro and his use of technology:
“He’s probably not been this excited since FIFA 17 came out on Playstation.
“He’s one of the up-and-coming, modern-era coaches who can organise a session just by flicking open his laptop.
“There isn’t a session out there he couldn’t get on to his MacBook. But setting up a presentation to a group of players is all well and good.
“That does not require man management skills, which is part of the game he knows absolutely nothing about.”
You would think that Cathro is about to implement the Skynet system from the Terminator film series the way this pair are carrying on.
Had Boyd done his homework - stretching the imagination I know but bear with me - he would know that computerised technology has advanced a number of team sports.
American Football, Basketball and Rugby Union are three examples where technology is used during gametime to identify where games are being won and lost and how certain indiviuduals are performing.
The box in the stand used by rugby coaches to accomodate the head coach and his assistants with their laptops has long since replaced the dugout at the top end of that sport and don't be surprised if football decides to embark on that path.
But for backward dinosaurs like Boyd and Fullarton, Cathro embracing technology is to be sneered at.
Yet while that pair continue to pose as the classroom thickos who scream "NERD!!!" at the straight A student, real experts of management such as Rafa Benitez, who has worked with Ian at Newcastle United, and current Porto manager Nuno Espirito Santo who hired the Scot to be his assistant at Rio Ave and Valencia rate Cathro.
Hearts' Director of Football Craig Levein rates him too - he had previously worked with Cathro at Dundee United and tried to bring him to Tynecastle two years ago as youth team manager only for Rio Ave to come calling.
When working with Cathro at Tannadice, Levein was impressed with the Box Soccer programme that Ian had devised and implemented that helped revitalise Dundee United's youth set-up.
Back in July 2015 when Cathro had been snapped up by Newcastle, Levein reflected on nearly landing the Dundonian the year before saying:
"He is a great kid and he has done really good things with Rio Ave and Valencia.
“Now he is working down at Newcastle and I am sure that in time he would like to be a manager in his own right.
“I can’t take a lot of credit, but I do have a sense of pride for what he has done.
“I think he is a remarkable young man and that has been proven by where he has got to in a short space of time.
“He has got to a stage in his career where he is sitting in the number two seat at a Premier League club in England.
“I know some of the stuff he did for Nuno was very specific and imaginative. He has a brain that sees things that other people miss. I wish him all the best.
“He has moved up closer to the manager’s role and I am sure in time he will want to be a coach or a head coach in his own right.”
Back in March 2015 Cathro, then of Valencia, gave an interview to the BBC where he outlined his ideas for progressing the game of football and also his ambitions to one day become a manager himself. He said:
"You project forward to the types of job you want to do.
"I want to fill a stadium and make people excited about coming, feeling that as an enjoyable thing to watch and embrace, whilst being able to do something of significance at a club that leaves a structure and a system so that it continues to profit from beyond my period of time.
"That's the types of jobs that are more appealing and more natural to me.
"You're paid a lot of money, football gives you a lot of good things, and it's the club's position in society that gives you that. It's important that the club gets its value from you.
"In a lot of aspects, I feel entirely ready. The exact moment and when I make that step will be more about the details of the opportunity, the conditions and circumstances that you would be working with."
Cathro in his first interview as Hearts manager said:
"This is a step I've wanted to take, one I've prepared for and I think the circumstances are perfect.
"What will the fans get? A team that wants to win. A team that when the first whistle goes - irrespective of the circumstances, the opponent, home, away, rain, sun, no matter what - when the first whistle goes we will expect to win.
"And we will work to find a way in which we believe that we can win.
"We're going to want to use the ball, we're going to want to be incredibly energetic, we'll want to attack and score goals. We want to be aggressive and be as close to the opponent's goal as we possibly can.
"We'll make it an exciting place to come. Will it always be perfect? No it won't. But everybody will be at maximum all the time. It could be an enjoyable ride."
He comes off as someone who actually knows something about the game and maybe that's what scares the likes of Fullarton and Boyd.
The management scene in Scotland does convey the impression of being an 'old boys club' where if your face fits then work in the dugout will follow.
Hearts bucked that trend two years ago by employing a young rookie in Neilson with Levein overseeing the re-development of the club's youth infrastructure.
It was sneered at on the day Hearts announced their respective appointments but look how well it has worked.
Cathro's appointment is Hearts once again bringing a new approach to the management table and Boyd and Fullarton are howling from the stone age.
Even the claim that Cathro doesn't have man-management skills is a red herring. As Newcastle player Jack Colback said of Ian's methods in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle earlier this month:
"He takes no sh*t on the training pitch and will pull up sessions if the intensity isn’t right."
What naysayers like Boyd, Fullarton et al are really afraid of is the possibility of Cathro's new approach to football coaching and management might actually succeed.
If it does, other Scottish clubs might take note and close off the avenue open to old school dinosaurs like them completely.
The likes of Sacchi and Mourinho succeeding would more than likely have not occured had they sought work in Scotland.
Indeed, Cathro had to move to pastures more progressive than Scotland to develop and establish his reputation as one of Europe's top coaches.
As well as he was doing at Dundee United, it is unlikely that he would have advanced his career had he stayed in Scotland.
What the likes of Fullarton and Boyd should have done was ask the question as to why promising coaches have to go abroad to develop their craft?
Now that Cathro is back in his home nation, any possible success he might have with Hearts could revolutionise how the Scottish game looks at developing coaching.
When facing similar scepticism upon being appointed as Milan boss, Arrigo Sacchi mocked his critics by saying:
"I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first."
Hearts will be hoping that come the day that Cathro leaves them, it will be because he's landed a bigger job having led his Tynecastle horses to success.
When that happens, Hearts will once again be looking for a new 'jockey'.
Donkeys like Boyd and Fullarton need not apply.