Craig Levein: Former Dundee Utd manager interested in return

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A conversation with Dundee United would be 'interesting' - Craig Levein

Craig Levein admits he would "never say never" to a return to Dundee United as Robbie Neilson's successor.

Neilson's shock move to Hearts has left United searching for a new manager.

The Tayside club are preparing for a return to the Scottish Premiership, but Hearts have begun a legal challenge aimed at overturning their relegation and scrapping promotions.

"A conversation would be interesting," said Levein of a possible approach from the club he managed from 2006-09.

"My time at Dundee United was special, I built a really strong team.

"I would never say never to the Dundee United job. But I don't know the structure of the club and it's something I would need to look at in great detail before accepting, if approached."

Levein had Neilson as a player during his first spell as Hearts manager and then, as director of football, appointed him head coach in 2014.

He is not surprised the 40-year-old has chosen to leave United for a return to the club he guided to the Championship title in 2015 and had them second in the top flight when he departed for MK Dons a year later.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Sportsound Podcast, Levein said: "I had a long conversation with Robbie in November and he intimated he would like to come back to Hearts at some point.

"I didn't think it would be as soon as this. I think he regretted leaving at the time he did. He went to Hearts as a 15-year-old kid, so has a really strong connection [with the club]. I'm convinced it's the right move for him."

Levein expects Hearts owner Ann Budge to announce a new director of football and chief executive "fairly soon". The ex-Scotland head coach was sacked as manager and director of football at Tynecastle last October before seeing out his contract behind the scenes.

"Ann has been in the firing line for six years and bringing someone in to take the strain on a day-to-day basis as CEO would be beneficial for her," he added.

'All can't be right at United'

Steven Pressley and Robbie Neilson spent seven years together at Hearts
Steven Pressley and Robbie Neilson spent seven years together at Hearts

Steven Pressley, the former Dundee United defender, believes former Hearts team-mate Neilson's strong relationship with Budge proved key in the move.

And Pressley says United's financial situation would have been the "biggest concern" for Neilson in deciding to depart Tannadice after leading the club to promotion to end their four-year stay in the second tier.

"When you look at Dundee United's recent accounts, they've turned over £3m and made a £3.7m loss, which is quite worrying. It's unsustainable," said Pressley, who has ruled himself out of contention for the United managerial vacancy and Hearts' director of football role.

"In the last four weeks they've lost their CEO, and now they've lost Robbie to one of their rivals. So not all can be right at Dundee United just now and that's a grave concern for the club.

"Robbie's relationship with Ann is very strong and one of the difficulties he found at Dundee United was he wasn't getting direct access to the owner [Mark Ogren] there who makes the decisions.

"He had a decent enough relationship with [director of football] Tony Asghar, but I don't think his access to the owner was there. He'll get that at Hearts."

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