New Hearts arrival admits his surprise at being offered key role

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Joe Savage admits encouragement from Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson led to him applying for the same post at Hearts, but concedes he was still stunned to be offered the position.

Savage, by his own admission, was an ‘average’ player in the lower leagues with the likes of Stenhousemuir, Montrose and Arbroath.

However, the 36-year-old has built a successful career off the pitch, having left his head of recruitment position at Preston alongside manager Alex Neil for a return to his native country.

Joe Savage is unveiled as new Hearts sporting director | Hearts news
Savage was delighted to be offered Hearts role | Hearts news

Savage also served in similar roles with Neil at Norwich City and Hamilton.

As a Scot, Savage, who officially took over at Hearts on Monday, was more than aware of of the club’s standing within the game north of the border.

However, he admits it was only when he was given a tour of the facilities that he questioned his own suitability for the vacancy.

Savage said: “I wanted to look into the role of sporting director or director of football, whatever you want to call it.

“I’m doing a level 5 technical director course with the Football Association in England and I was looking around and I liked the idea of the job, I felt I could be good at it.

“I spoke to a few people I am close with who do the role as it is, Ross Wilson and Stuart Webber (at Norwich City) and asked them what they thought and they told me they thought I could do it.

Then the opportunity to speak to Hearts came up.”

Savage, who was part of the recruitment team that brought James Maddison to Norwich City before the Canaries sold the forward to Leicester City for £20 million in summer 2018, added: “From the outside looking in, I thought ‘big club, massive tradition, great fan base’.  

“You think this is good. But it’s only when you see it you realise how big it is, how professional and organised it is. 

“The infrastructure is great. The stadium is magnificent, the city of Edinburgh is beautiful, the training facilities are great. 

“You’ve got a management staff that have won the league before. 

“They know what they’re doing. 

“I looked at the full package and felt ‘wow, this is unbelievable, are you sure you want to hire me.

“When they wanted to take me, I thought okay, we could really do something here.” 

Former Hearts manager Craig Levein held the position of director of football at Hearts previously before returning to the dugout in a dual position in August 2017.

However, fans were suspicious of Levein’s involvement in first team affairs during Robbie Neilson’s first stint in charge and Ian Cathro’s ill-fated spell as boss.

While Savage will have an all-encompassing role behind the scenes, when it comes to the football department Savage insists his focus will be on delivering everything that is asked of him by Neilson.

He added: “I’m not going to tell Robbie what to do, I’m there to help him.

“I’m there to provide what he asks for and hopefully provide the right things that he feels, ‘yeah, Joe is trying his best for me’. 

“I’ll try my hardest to make sure I get what Robbie wants. 

“I’ll try and provide him with everything he needs. He is an experienced man and knows what he is doing.

“But the role will be broad, I am going to be involved in a lot of things and that’s what I wanted. I wanted that responsibility.

“I am going to be involved in the academy, I am going to be involved in the women’s side, recruitment, analysis and with the medical and performance departments.

“So it is going to be broad, but that’s what excites me, trying to help and get my teeth into that and show what I can do and hopefully push the club forward.”