Hearts: Five weeks & still no manager - what is happening?

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Budge doing best for Hearts - MacLean

When Ann Budge decided to relieve Craig Levein of his duties not only as director of football but also manager of Hearts on Halloween, she said she would "take as long as it takes to find the right person. I'm in no hurry".

Five weeks on, the position remains vacant and the team continue to lurch from one galling result to another as they battle at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership.

The five matches played since the departure of Levein have brought three defeats, one draw and a solitary victory - their first home Premiership win since March - against bottom side St Mirren.

Budge has tried valiantly to appoint a new head coach and, indeed, thought she had her man in former Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel. However the 45-year-old's messy departure from the English Championship club in early October and failure to agree a severance package has brought that process to a halt for now.

Indeed Budge, speaking at a function in Edinburgh on Tuesday, called the situation "tortuous" with Barnsley now claiming a six-figure sum in compensation. A sum Budge no doubt will be unwilling to meet.

'Uncertainty throughout whole club'

The Hearts futures of coaches Liam Fox, Jon Daly and Austin MacPhee are uncertain
The Hearts futures of coaches Liam Fox, Jon Daly and Austin MacPhee are uncertain

In October, the Foundation of Hearts announced their pledges in cash over the past five years had reached £9m. A staggering amount by any standards and an indication of how supportive of the club the majority of fans have been in troubled times. However, even the most diehard of Jambos have been questioning what exactly is going on inside Tynecastle.

Similarly, it's human nature that the current uncertainty will also have an impact on the players and the staff. For the likes of coaches John Daly and Liam Fox, who have been around since pretty much day one of Budge's stewardship, there will be concerns about their own futures, likewise Austin MacPhee who has been the front man in recent weeks.

There was also an increase in numbers in the playing squad over the summer. That was mainly due to long-term injuries to key men but all those players have to be paid and last year's wage bill - which crept over £8m - is likely to be topped when the accounts for this full season are announced in due course.

The youth academy at Riccarton was supposed to be the place where Hearts youngsters would thrive and be the pathway towards the first team. However, only 17-year-old Aaron Hickey has been able to command a regular game in recent times. The likes of Jamie Brandon and Andy Irving have been in and around the squad, but their impact has been minimal.

And what of midfielder Harry Cochrane, who burst on to the scene two years ago when he scored at Tynecastle in a stunning 4-0 victory that ended Celtic's long unbeaten run? The teenager - now 18 - is out on loan at Dunfermline Athletic after failing to kick on at Hearts after his impressive impact.

The club holds its annual general meeting on Tuesday, 17 December where shareholders no doubt will be asking key questions about what has gone wrong. This will be the last AGM with Budge as the major shareholder as her stake in the club is due to be transferred to the Foundation of Hearts come next May.

The plan is for her to remain in position as chief executive for at least a year. But by the time she addresses the shareholders, she will have to hope a new manager will also be in attendance to tell all about his long-term plans.

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