Craig Levein stressed that his head is not in the sand with regard to Hearts’ current predicament as he reiterated his belief that he is still equipped to turn things round at Tynecastle.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News yesterday, the under-fire manager explained that “nothing has changed” in relation to his outlook about his future in the Gorgie hotseat since he was the subject of a protest from exasperated supporters after Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at home to Motherwell left the Edinburgh club bottom of the Premiership five games into the campaign.
Although he has no intention of quitting, Levein insists he is well aware of the sense of anger within the fanbase and accepts the reasons for the criticism that has come away. However, he remains steadfast in his belief that Hearts are only a couple of wins away from clicking into gear, improving the vibe around the club and challenging for the European places.
“I’m not stupid, I understand how the business works,” he said. “And one thing that I certainly am not is somebody who buries their head in the sand. If I think we’re in a situation that can’t be reversed, then I’ll be the first to say that. But at this minute in time, I don’t get that feeling from the players.
“I look at it this way: I’ve been doing this job for a long time, I’ve seen a lot of things in the game and if I thought there wasn’t a good opportunity for us to improve and climb up the league, I’d be saying ‘that’s it.’ But that isn’t the case. I know there are some supporters who aren’t happy. I don’t think there are any who are actually happy at the moment but there are a lot who recognise that there’s a decent set of players there and if I can get things moving in the right direction then there’s still plenty of time to climb the league and aim for the European places. That’s certainly my view - I think we’re more than capable of doing that.”
Levein is busy preparing his team for an Edinburgh derby against Hibs at Easter Road on Sunday. Three days later they face Aberdeen in a Betfred Cup quarter-final tie at Tynecastle. The manager explained that his main task ahead of this critical double-header will be trying to instil some confidence into a group of players who have looked nervy and lacking in assurance in recent games.
“It’s just about us getting a confidence boost by winning a match or two and then we’ll be off and running,” he said. “I’ve been in this situation before and I’m confident that things will turn round and in six weeks’ time we’ll be speaking about a different situation altogether. I don’t look at it at the moment and say I can’t see it happening for us. I feel there’s more to come from this group of players. My job at the moment is to help them through this period where they’re obviously a bit anxious and lacking in confidence.
“I’m not relaxed about it, obviously, but I’m confident that it’s not a situation that’s insurmountable in any way, shape or form. Eventually, if things aren’t going well and I’m not capable of turning things around, then I won’t be at the club. But that isn’t the situation at the moment.”
Levein, who has been overseeing the rebuild of Hearts’ football department in his role as director of football since the club exited administration a little over five years ago, retains full belief in his ability to bring success to the club in what is his second spell as manager. “There’s a lot of hard work gone into getting the club out of administration, from the Championship back into the top league, building a new stand, building the academy side up,” he said. “I feel really proud to have been involved in it. I know that we’re in a situation just now that nobody wants to be in but I’m confident that will change.
“I believe in what I’m doing. I believe we have a good group of players who, once we can get rolling and moving in the right direction, can challenge at the top end of the table. It just takes one or two victories to give us some confidence, then that sets us off. That’s my belief. I don’t see any reason not to believe that. I’m basically saying the same things over and over again but as I’ve said previously, if I did think it was impossible, I’d be the first to say.”