Is there any way back for Craig Levein? Hearts fans’ patience snaps in Foundation Plaza

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FOUNDATION PLAZA, named after supporters’ group Foundation of Hearts, is intended to be a timeless reminder of the unbreakable bond between fans and club.

On Saturday, it hosted a stark demonstration of the current disconnect between the two.

The calls for Craig Levein to quit were vociferous and a banner reading ‘Levein Out’ was prominent as several hundred seething punters gathered on that promenade outside the Main Stand.

This cannot, and should not, be dismissed as a small collection of malcontents.

At one point, a handful of individuals even attempted to storm the reception area in scenes more akin to the Chris Robinson era.

Vitriol was aimed at the board as they sang ‘Heart of Midlothian; we’re in the wrong hands’ and ‘sack the board’. A reminder: less than five years have passed since lifelong fan Ann Budge rescued Hearts from the cusp of liquidation.

Since then, they have won promotion back to the Premiership, returned to European football, built a new Main Stand and completely reconstructed the structure of a club decimated by financial mismanagement.

Her legacy should be bulletproof.

Many of those accomplishments – particularly the creation of a fine youth system – are shared with the tireless Levein, for which he deserves more credit than he often receives.

Yet, supporters are now so disaffected that those achievements are now paling next to a purveying feeling that Budge will not act in the face of a lengthy malaise on the pitch.

Calming words and pleas for patience are falling on deaf ears but, as all hell broke loose outside Tynecastle, Jake Mulraney was the next to have a go within the relative calm of the media room.

“We try our best to just ignore that side of things [protests],” said the Irish winger. All we can try to do is get some wins under our belt. That’s the focus and the only way we’ll sort this.

“It’s ridiculous to say this is all down to the gaffer. We are the ones on the pitch and I’d back him 100 per cent.

“I’m sure he is used to this kind of pressure and people getting on at him. He’s been in the game a long time and is gaffer is mentally strong.

“I believe we can still finish high up the league, definitely. I look around the changing room and see the boys we have. We have quality, leaders, experience and we can turn this around.”

Regardless of what some supporters may think, Levein’s position is not set in stone. A cursory glance at how IT entrepreneur Budge expanded her business and made her millions should leave onlookers in no doubt regarding her ruthlessness.

One suspects the next two fixtures will be decisive in that regard. An Edinburgh derby at Easter Road and a Betfred Cup quarter-final against Aberdeen represent ideal – and perhaps last – opportunities to lift the gloom around Gorgie.

“I’m sure a derby win would lift spirits massively around the club,” agreed Mulraney. “It’s a massive 10 days for us. We could potentially be looking at a derby victory and be in the semi-final of the Betfred Cup.

“It’s a period that could turn the tables.”

An increasingly vocal and volatile portion of supporters believe the point of no return has already come and gone, however. Saturday’s 3-2 defeat against Motherwell continued a winless start to the league season despite three home fixtures.

Hearts have only emerged victorious from four Premiership games in the whole of 2019 and Levein’s statement of ‘we are six points off fourth place, I don’t consider that to be a huge problem’ only riled fans further.

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It took just 20 minutes for a feeling of deja vu to descend upon Tynecastle, with a criminally unmarked Declan Gallagher heading home a Liam Polwarth corner-kick.

Motherwell doubled their advantage after the break courtesy of a ferocious firecracker from Sherwin Seedorf, lashing a drive from 20 yards in via the underside of the bar.

“I think that is my number one goal,” smiled the genial Dutchman. “The coach [Stephen Robinson] just told me to go and show the world what I can do. He has given me so much confidence and I take that into the games.”

Uche Ikpeazu’s first goal of the season briefly halved arrears, only for Jermaine Hylton to restore the Steelmen’s cushion after latching onto a shambolic mix-up between Sean Clare and goalkeeper Colin Doyle.

A maiden strike in maroon from on-loan Manchester City winger Ryo Meshino was a mere consolation but did cap a cameo which served as the only silver lining to a miserable afternoon for those of a Hearts persuasion.

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