Alan Pattullo: Mixed messages from Ann Budge at Hearts

Hearts owner Ann Budge. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Hearts owner Ann Budge. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
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Is there any wonder Hearts seem caught in an inexorable downward spiral, given the mixed messages being delivered from the top seat?

Austin MacPhee is a still a valued member of staff but has been ordered to work from home. Craig Levein is on the way out but is still a very visible presence at the club’s Riccarton training HQ.

The ongoing Levein saga will haunt Ann Budge and the owner has not helped herself by delivering seemingly contradictory versions of the circumstances in which the former manager returned to take charge of first team affairs in the first place.

Budge, pictured, can be honest to a fault sometimes. But one wonders what the truth of it is when one remembers how she couched Levein’s appointment as first team coach following Ian Cathro’s departure in August 2017.

At the press conference a few weeks later, when Levein was re-appointed manager having been considered the outstanding candidate, Budge stressed it was a case of having to persuade him to return to the dugout.

Levein, at the request of the board, had “agreed” to take the role. It was presented as something he was not initially keen to do – he had to be convinced. Now we are being asked to believe the opposite happened – he petitioned for the post.

“I didn’t ask Craig to offer his services as manager,” Budge told shareholders at what was described as a “stormy” annual general meeting this week.

“In truth, I was very uncomfortable with it. But I spoke to him, the board spoke to him and he wanted to do it and we wanted to back him.

“It could easily be said: ‘yes, I made a mistake’. The other mistake I made was not in looking for a new manager in the summer. So, I made a couple of mistakes. But it was not blind faith.”

There’s a lot wrong with Hearts at present. Such 
confusion in high places cannot help.