Hearts manager Craig Levein insists future is bright for Scotland – despite latest qualifying set-back



Hearts manager Craig Levein is adamant that Scotland is verge of an exciting new era after claiming that the country’s youth academies are bursting with talent.

The national team’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign led to manager Gordon Strachan stepping down and prompted the inevitable post-mortem over why Scotland is facing at least a 22-year absence from a major finals.

However, Levein insists there are youngsters at Hearts and other clubs who he expects to make their mark on the international stage.

The 52-year-old was Scotland manager during the inception of the Scottish FA Performance Schools in 2012 and that investment in youth is now starting to pay dividends.

Graduate Harry Cochrane made his full debut for the Tynecastle outfit in the recent defeat to Dundee at just 16-years-old, and Levein insists the future is bright.

He said: “You probably don’t see it but there is a huge amount of hope. I watch the kids’ games every Saturday and Sunday morning.

“Harry Cochrane played for us and was the first Performance School kid to start a game in the Premiership.

“We have four or five players in the 16, 17, 18 age group here at Hearts.

“I would be hugely surprised if they don’t play a hundred games for us and become international players.

“I’m telling you, these kids are good players.

“Celtic and Rangers have better players, Aberdeen have better players. Motherwell and Hamilton have better players.

“Everybody has better players and I see that every week.

“As a byproduct of what we’re trying to do, the national team will improve.

“You look at our recent results, and I’m not just talking about a blip, and gradually our results have been improving throughout the age groups.

“And that’s because we’ve got better players. So I think it’s only going to get better.”

Former SFA performance director Mark Wotte had a 2020 vision for the Performance School youngsters and the Hearts boss insists it is imperative that the governing body do not deviate from that plan.

He added: “It’s typical Scotland, we start something and because we haven’t got the rewards within five years, a lot of people say, ‘the club’s aren’t doing anything’.

“That’s Scotland. It’s not working, let’s change it.

“Wait a minute, we’ve got some good players coming along. Ah, forget about that. Let’s have a new manager. Let’s have a wee bit of excitement for a while!

“Right now we’ve got something to build. Keep the faith, as they say.”

Levein lost his job as Scotland manager in November 2012 and was replaced by Strachan, and did not believe there was any need for another dugout reshuffle.

He added: “I think Gordon did a really good job. I see progress.

“And then Kieran Tierney appears on the scene, Andy Robertson appears on the scene, maybe John Souttar will appear on the scene next – or somebody else.

“Before you know it, you are starting to get better quality younger players.

“And I think we’ve missed that. We haven’t had better quality younger players for a long, long time.

“Once that starts happening, and you get a bit of energy and enthusiasm and quality that comes with youth, that will help us.

“I would love to have seen him stay on. I don’t think there is anybody better.”