Hearts owner Ann Budge insists “finance is not a problem” as the Tynecastle club begin the process of appointing a successor to the sacked Craig Levein. Asked if Roy Keane and Sam Allardyce and other such high-profile candidates were realistic options, she said she “couldn’t see why not”.
Budge added: “Look at some of the other managers we have in Scotland at the moment. A few years ago we would have questioned if that was possible. Hearts are no different. We need to compete the with the top clubs in Scotland. To do that I want to ensure we get basically a very experienced and high-profile manager.”
This would appear to rule out current interim manager Austin MacPhee but she stated he was still a contender despite Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final. MacPhee will take charge of Saturday’s crucial league encounter with St Mirren, who sit bottom of the league from Hearts only on goal difference, and could be holding the reins longer, depending on what happens.
“He is definitely a contender,” Budge said. “He has done it before and has done it very well. He knows what he has to do to strengthen his case and he will be working hard to do that.”
Budge and her fellow Hearts directors – excluding Levein - will take advice from independent “football experts” with regards to a new manager. She has not decided whether to officially appoint a panel of consultants. “One thing I would say, Craig is not part of that process,” she said.
“Clearly, we are not where we want to be,” she added. “That said we are still in a good place. (But) we need a manager now.”
She explained that the director of football position, previously filled by Levein, latterly in tandem with his managerial duties, is now a redundant role. A new position of sporting director, with responsibilities ranging from youths to identifying signings, has been created and the successful candidate could be appointed before a new manager.
“Doing everything associated with running a football operation of a club of a certain size is too much for one person,” she said. “It is important we have a manager who has the time to focus on the first team.”
She admitted it was hard telling Levein, her friend and right-hand man, that he was no longer wanted as manager.
“Craig was totally professional about the whole thing, totally professional,” she said. “Yes, he hoped to have longer. But he has been in football an awful long time and I think he understood action had to be taken. I had set myself the target I suppose of giving him the full round of fixtures. I wanted to give him a fair crack of the whip to see if things would turn out. Injuries did not help. But equally you can’t keep talking about injuries. We brought extra players in in the summer.”