Hearts owner admits she could seek Craig Levein’s opinion over manager and sporting director vacancies

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Hearts owner Ann Budge has said she would consider seeking Craig Levein’s opinion when it comes to whittling down candidates for the positions of manager and sporting director.

Levein was relieved of his duties as manger and director of football on Thursday, with the Tynecastle outfit sitting joint bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership following 11 matches.

Despite the former Scotland boss’ removal from those prominent positions, last week’s statement confirming the dugout change stated that Levein will see out his contract until the end of the season ‘to develop and improve the structure of the backroom and youth operations.’

While categorically maintaining that Levein would not be party to the formal recruitment process, which includes sifting through 30-plus applications – with the plan of conducting interviews next week, nor have any input into the first team, Budge did say she could still sound him out regarding the two vacancies.

“I’m not going to stop talking to Craig,” said Budge, whose admission regarding the divisive Levein’s ongoing input will undoubtedly cause some consternation among the club’s supporters.

“If I get to the point where I’ve got two or three (managerial candidates) will I ask Craig’s opinion? Yes, probably. 

“But what I don’t want to do is let people think he’s going to be involved in the recruitment process. 

“But I might ask his opinion in the same way as I would ask someone else’s opinion if I thought they were suitably qualified.

“But I’m going to be talking to Craig potentially even more than I did in the past because of the role we are shaping up.”

Budge also admitted she would take a similar approach when it came to assessing candidates for the newly created role of sporting director.

Asked if she would ask Levein for input, Budge replied: “Well, I might well do, yes. 

“He has seen a lot more than I have but the approach I’m taking is that I’m talking to a lot of other clubs because they’ve gone through this. 

“I am talking to predominately clubs in Scotland, I have been talking about how they’ve done it, has it worked, where have the problems been? 

“I am trying to arm myself with as much information as I can.”

Budge said she was also steeling herself for an adverse response from fans regarding the level of Levein’s influence.

“Yeah, there will be a reaction,” she noted. 

“The very fact Craig is going to continue to be at the club creates a reaction in some peoples’ eyes, it’s very clear, ‘that hasn’t worked so he has to go’. 

“I have a different view of life, why throw the baby out of with the bath water?”

Levein, who was due to meet with the club’s majority shareholder yesterday afternoon, would also effectively perform the position of sporting director until the post was fulfilled.

Budge added: “What I’m saying is that I want to appoint a sporting director as soon as possible, it could be Craig who fill that role on an interim basis while we look at it.

“The biggest boundary is that he no longer has input into the first team, because that would confuse things.

“Basically, we take the first team out of it. They (new sporting director) will be doing it on behalf of the manager, as happens at a lot of other clubs. 

“I think they are equally-senior appointments. The manager has to have the say on the first team, but I don’t need an admin support on the other side of things. I need a senior person doing that as well. In terms of the first team, the manager will have to call the shots.

“I want to make sure all our decision-making processes are clear and the accountability process is clear for all these functions. Craig will absolutely help me shape that.”

Budge said she would seek advice from football experts when it came to identifying a successor to Levein in the dugout, although she has already been encouraged by those who have already expressed an interest.

Jack Ross, Roy Keane, John Robertson and David Moyes have already been linked with the post.

Admitting that Austin MacPhee would at least by in charge for Saturday’s visit of St Mirren, Budge added: “We’ve had a very high calibre of applications. 

“I think we are going to have an interesting time. There’s a lot of interest in this position and I’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

Budge, meanwhile, has vehemently denied that her judgement became clouded due to a her close working relationship with Levein.

She added: “I do not believe for a second I’ve been manipulated. 

“I know who makes the decisions and everybody at the senior level of this club knows who makes the decisions. 

“So, that annoys me – ill informed comments, either because they haven’t asked the question or they’re misinformed. I get irritated by that when I see things.”

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