Hearts legend Gary Mackay admits he harbours concerns over who really has control of first team affairs at Tynecastle.
Former Hearts midfielder Michael Stewart used his weekly newspaper column this week to ask the question: ‘Are they a Robbie Neilson team? Or are they a Craig Levein team?’
As head coach, Neilson is responsible for all issues relating to the first team, while former manager Levein, in his position as director of football, oversees the entire football department.
However, Mackay, the club’s all-time record appearance holder, shares Stewart’s unease over autonomy in the dugout, particularly over the side’s style.
Hearts have been forced to defend themselves against accusations of being overly aggressive, having amassed 16 yellow cards in their opening three domestic matches of the campaign, and Mackay believes one-time team-mate Levein holds too much sway in the background.
Mackay said: “I’ve huge respect for Michael because I do feel he speaks openly and I try to do the same, and constructively.
“How can we tell what was a Robbie Neilson team, what was a Craig Levein team?
“It’s a judgement that Michael is making and I can relate to it.
“I can relate to it, do I necessarily agree? Probably not, because I’ve always thought it’s been a Craig Levein team, that’s being honest.
“I think the team is set up in the way that Craig likes to play and I think it’s developed: bigger, stronger, more athletic and with a wee bit less flair than there was in the early part of the new regime.
“You had midfielders getting beyond the ball, midfielders linking up and so on.
“There is a part of the game that you have to be disciplined and so on but it’s picking the right times to be disciplined.
“Hearts supporters would be able to take a defeat now and again if they see a desire to go and win football matches through the 90 minutes.
“Last season’s Scottish Cup draw with Hibs became a wee bit negative after going two-nil up rather than going for the third.
“What is this term now? Game management, give me peace, game management.”
Hearts’ season got off to a bad start when they were booed off following a 2-1 Europa League aggregate defeat to Maltese minnows Birkirkara at Tynecastle and Mackay wants to see the team play will more freedom in the final third.
He added: “If Hearts were on the front foot, I think Birkirkara was a doable game.
“That’s been my wee concern. My frustration has been how we’ve not been on the front foot in games.
“When you’ve got a big crowd at Tynecastle, I think back to Slavia Prague, I think back to the 70s, Lokomotive Leipzig and so on, that if you’re on the front and have that backing, that atmosphere is hugely intimidating. It’s using it positively.
“Possession is lovely and it’s nice to have the ball but if it’s in the back of the net, then the other team don’t have it.”