Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge says she can envisage a scenario where Craig Levein eventually moves back into a mentoring role, allowing one of the club’s young coaches to assume the manager’s job.
But, speaking after the club’s annual general meeting, Budge said that she hoped the man who guided the club to a remarkable 4-0 victory over Celtic at the weekend would be in the dugout for at least a couple more years.
Confident in the job being carried out by Levein, who she persuaded to step back into the manager’s chair after the sacking of Ian Cathro, she believes he has fulfilled the initial part of his remit, which was to stabilise the team and get them back to winning ways despite the obstacle of having so many away games.
Climbing the table and having closed the gap on rivals Hibs to three points with the festive derby looming, the decision to allow Levein to combine coaching the first team with his ongoing job as director of football appears to have been vindicated but Budge insists they have not abandoned their plan to promote from within.
“We didn’t feel any of the young guys were ready to take that step [when Cathro left]. Two years from now, who knows? Whatever happens with Craig, if we need a new head coach, I would love it if it was one of the ones that we have been developing and working with. So that we can demonstrate the model.
“We are still committed to developing players and developing young coaches.
“The coaching team we have there, Jon [Daly] and Liam [Fox] and Austin [MacPhee] and so on, they all know exactly how they fit in. And they are all learning from each other. The trouble is, they’re going to be saying: ‘Right, I’m ready for my next challenge’.”
Asked if that would mean Levein returning to the lone role of director of football, Budge was unequivocal. “Yes, he’s happy here.” But she conceded he has been even happier since becoming manager.
“I was watching him on Sunday. I sent him a wee text saying ‘I haven’t seen you quite so animated for a long time’. He’s enjoying it. He is definitely more relaxed. I used to sit just a few seats away from him [in the stand] and, believe me, there were many, many times when he was hugely frustrated. But our conversations are different now. He is much more relaxed with the way things are at the minute.”