Hearts owner Ann Budge insists discusses Craig Levein’s future and ex-boss Ian Cathro’s communication issues

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Hearts owner Ann Budge insists she would want Craig Levein to continue as director of football if his tenure as manager does not work out.

The former Scotland boss is effectively occupying both roles at the Tynecastle outfit after taking up the offer to replace Ian Cathro in the dugout last August.

Levein, who enjoyed a successful first spell as manager, initially joined the board in 2014 when Budge helped take the Gorgie outfit out of administration.

Budge has already admitted that the disruption caused by building the new £15 million main stand is a factor in the team struggling to fulfil their target of at least finishing fourth in the Premiership this season.

However, Levein is planning a major squad overhaul this summer and Budge insists the 53-year-old will still have a future at the club should his time as manager come to an end.

She said: “Craig at the moment is loving what he is doing and I can tell you he really is loving what he is doing.

“Will he still be loving it in three or four years or whatever? I don’t know.

“What I do know is that, if for whatever reason it did not work, I would certainly want him back as director of football. I think he did that very well.

“He is, to all intents and purposes still fulfilling the role.

“One of the reasons we were able to go along with moving Craig was because over the last four years we’ve built a really strong team at Riccarton.

“I don’t think he put this track suit on and goes and does the training, he does to a large extent do what he has always done which is, he attends the training sessions, he talks to the other coaches and the other coaches basically take the training sessions.

“The big difference is that he makes the decision, not a lot has changed.

“He is still looking after recruitment and overseeing the academy but we have a very strong team there.

“He can afford to take more time to be the manager because he has a strong team around him.”

Cathro

Cathro’s appointment as Robbie Neilson’s successor in December 2016 attracted much publicity given that the then 30-year-old had never played nor managed at a professional level.

Concerns had been raised over whether the former Valencia and Newcastle United coach had the personality to lead the team.

Budge admits Cathro’s ability to communicate was a major problem behind a woeful run of only seven wins from 30 games during his seven-month stint in charge.

Speaking to BBC Sportsound, she added: “We all know what happened therefore it would be difficult for me to sit here and say no (it wasn’t a mistake).

“I think it was something we all bought into you, it was new, it was different, it was taking a risk, but everyone was behind it.

“I didn’t have concerns about Ian, we took Ian and Austin (MacPhee) in and Craig was totally behind them.

“I wasn’t concerned about it. If these guys thought it as worth a try then I thought, ‘why not?’

“Probably towards the end of last season (I became concerned), you could see things were going not quite as we hoped.

“It’s not a controversial statement this, but the kind of coverage he was getting in the media – and I was concerned for him, there is only so much anyone can take frankly.

“It was one of the bigger problems, it was the communication.

“He is a highly intelligent young man and I still believe he will go on to be very successful but it was his ability to communicate across different levels that caused the biggest problem.”

Naismith

Budge, meanwhile, hopes Hearts can strike an agreement with Norwich City to convert striker Steven Naismith’s loan into a permanent deal this summer.

The Scotland cap has scored two goals for the club since making the January switch and is also regarded as a mentor for a squad that contains several teenagers, including Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald.

Budge added: “Will Steven Naismith be here next season? I would love to think so but it’s up to him and the clubs. If we can, we certainly will.”

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