Locke not key to Levein’s plan for Hearts

Hearts director of football Craig Levein. Gary Locke below
Hearts director of football Craig Levein. Gary Locke below
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Hearts released manager Gary Locke and his assistant Billy Brown because they did not fit into new director of football Craig Levein’s plans for the future.

After promoting youth coach Robbie Neilson to head coach, Levein is now preparing to recruit an assistant for Neilson, a goalkeeping coach, a new youth academy director and an under-20s coach.

He also has a list of player signing targets, including a goalkeeper, a centre-back and a striker. Hearts are exploring the possibility of appointing a player/goalkeeping coach for next season, with Craig Gordon one of the contenders if they decide on a joint role.

New owner Ann Budge began work at Tynecastle yesterday and instantly installed Levein as director of football. He has responsibility for all football matters and will be involved in team selection, tactics, player recruitment and youth development along with Neilson. Locke and Brown were informed that their contracts would not be renewed as they were not part of Levein’s restructuring plans.

Senior players were also told in a series of individual meetings yesterday morning that they would not be offered new contracts. Jamie MacDonald, Jamie Hamill and Dylan McGowan have all gone, as have Mark Ridgers and Callum Tapping. Ryan Stevenson is expected to be released from his agreement, which was due to expire next summer. Teenagers Sam Nicholson and Gary Oliver are the only out-of-contract players offered new deals.

Hearts are invoking their option to retain six young players for another year. Jamie Walker, Jason Holt, Brad McKay, David Smith, Dale Carrick and Jack Hamilton have all had clauses in their contracts activated, keeping them at Tynecastle until next June.

Budge had been consulting Levein since last year on football matters in preparation for her takeover, which was confirmed on Friday afternoon. She has given him full autonomy to organise the football department at Riccarton to his own desire. This is a process which is expected to be done quickly.

Budge met with Hearts fan groups last night and stressed that yesterday’s decisions were made as part of a long-term plan to stabilise the club. She wants financial security after years of uncertainty. She will manage the day-to-day business along with her partner, Eric Hogg, who joins her on the board, while Levein looks after the football department.

Other directors on the new board are Levein, Foundation of Hearts chairman Ian Murray and the former SPL chairman Robert Wilson. Budge told supporters she was impressed with Levein’s vision and with Neilson’s professionalism and articulate manner.