Hearts: Ann Budge aims to appoint manager & sporting director

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
'I don't see why not' - Budge on Keane & Moyes links

Hearts owner Ann Budge says she is "in no hurry" to appoint a manager following the sacking of Craig Levein.

Levein, who served as director of football and also took on the manager's role in 2017, was dismissed after Wednesday's defeat by St Johnstone.

Hearts, second bottom of the Scottish Premiership, were led by interim boss Austin MacPhee for Sunday's Scottish League Cup semi-final loss to Rangers.

"Clearly, it's not where we wanted to be," Budge said.

"I've no intention of replacing or appointing a director of football. I'll appoint a different structure that I think is more appropriate for today. The structure would've changed anyway.

"I questioned deeply whether it was the right thing to do to allow Craig to have both roles. Do I regret it? Possibly yes. Clearly it didn't work so there's got to be a tinge of regret that it didn't work."

Budge also said:

  • Levein will not be involved in appointments of a manager or sporting director
  • It was not beyond Hearts to attract high-profile names
  • Sacking Levein was "not a nice thing to do"
  • MacPhee is "a contender" for the manager's role
  • The new manager may be able to strengthen the squad in January

'Hearts still in a good place'

Since returning to the top flight in 2015, Hearts have finished third, fifth and sixth twice and last season they reached the Scottish Cup final.

In her quest to find a manager to return the Tynecastle club to the top half of the table, Budge says spending money to get the right candidate will not be an issue.

"I think we're still in a good place," Budge explained. "Finances are not a problem, despite what some people have been assuming.

"I'll take as long as it takes to find the right person [as manager]. I'm in no hurry. It's not that we have someone in our sights, despite what some of the media have been saying. I want to go through the process rigorously and thoroughly and explore a lot of avenues. The net will be cast quite wide.

"I'd like to get the sporting director appointment made soon. Any manager who comes in has to come in knowing that there will be a sporting director, possibly in place or certainly to be appointed."

Watch: 'One man has been holding Hearts back... now he's gone'

Rangers have appointed Ross Wilson as sporting director in recent weeks and Celtic now have a head of football operations in Nick Hammond.

And Budge explained she wants a sporting director at Tynecastle to allow the manager "to focus on the first team".

"The complexities around managing all of the parts of the football department are such that I think it's too much to expect of one man so I want to split the role," she said.

Budge insisted it was the media linking names like Roy Keane and David Moyes with the club but when asked if such high-profile figures could arrive at Tynecastle, she replied: "I don't see why not.

"Look at some of the other managers we have in Scotland at the moment. A few years ago we would've been questioning whether that was possible. Hearts is no different. We need to compete with the top clubs in Scotland and to do that I want to ensure that we get a very experienced and high-profile manager."

Levein 'totally professional' over sacking

Levein, who previously managed Hearts in the early 2000s, returned to the club as director of football when Budge guided the club out of administration.

After Robbie Neilson led the side to promotion and a third-placed Premiership finish, he left for MK Dons and Ian Cathro was brought in. However, Cathro's spell in charge was less successful and he was sacked early in the 2017-18 season, prompting Levein's return to the manager's role.

He improved the team's results and last season started well but defeat by Celtic in the League Cup semi-final derailed their campaign and they have won just two league matches since March.

"It was not a nice thing to do," Budge said of Levein's sacking. "It's not nice to basically relieve someone of their duties. It's not something I wanted to do, it's not something I enjoyed doing for a second.

Ann Budge and Craig Levein
Budge believes Levein still has "a lot to offer" the club

"Craig was, as I would've expected, totally professional about the whole thing. Yes, he had hoped to have longer to achieve what he was trying to achieve but, again, he's been in football an awfully long time and he knows that, eventually, action is going to have to be taken.

"I had essentially set myself a target almost of giving a full round of fixtures. Too many clubs react too quickly. I wanted to give a fair crack of the whip to see whether the players we had brought in and those that we had in place were going to gel. The injuries didn't help. You can't keep talking about injuries."

Levein will see out his contract until next summer while working with the club's youth structure.

"I rate him very highly," said Budge. "He has still got a lot to offer. There's still loads of things to be done in this club and I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

MacPhee knows what he's got to do to

MacPhee and former Hearts winger Neil McCann have expressed their interest in taking over from Levein while Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson has been heavily linked with the role with his team third in the Premiership.

"He's definitely a contender," said Budge of MacPhee. "Austin's got a huge amount of experience. I'm not ruling Austin out. He knows what he's got to do to strengthen his case and he'll be working hard to do that.

"We will be appointing a new manager. If they can put up a good case for needing something [in January] then we'll make it happen."

Austin MacPhee and Steven Naismith
MacPhee oversaw Sunday's 3-0 defeat by Rangers

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