{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"hearts","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-boss-expects-sean-clare-to-prove-real-bargain-buy-1-4803244","id":"1.4803244","articleHeadline": "Hearts boss expects Sean Clare to prove real bargain buy","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537507813000 ,"articleLead": "

Craig Levein feels Hearts have been hugely fortunate to land Sean Clare on a permanent contract, with the manager expecting the 150,000 euros signing to prove to be a bargain buy.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4803243.1537515254!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sean Clare has signed a three-year deal at Tynecastle"} ,"articleBody": "

The 22-year-old midfielder joined the Tynecastle club on a three-year deal last weekend, with Hearts paying cross-border compensation to his former club Sheffield Wednesday – 60,000 euros for each of his two-and-a-half years at Hillsborough.

Explaining how Hearts were able to sign the highly-regarded Londoner, who had been the subject of interest from several English clubs, Levein said: “What happened was we tried to get him on loan. He was at Sheffield Wednesday, his contract was up and he decided he was leaving. He was going to one of a number of Championship or even Premier League clubs who were interested. The idea was that we would then take him on loan because obviously his wages would be way beyond what we can afford.

“One or two things happened with clubs he thought he would sign for. He had an injury, had to get a foot operation in March – and pre-season was gone, people had already signed their players just when he was getting fit, so the deal changed from us getting him on loan to whether we could get him permanently.

“What has been good for us is that, for him to go from Sheffield Wednesday to another Championship club or a Premier League club in England, if they don’t agree on a fee, it would go to a tribunal, and that could be set at seven figures.

“Cross-border compensation is more straightforward, black and white. They’re a category two club, we’re a category two club, so it’s 60,000 euros for every year he was at Sheffield Wednesday. The question then became could we find 150,000 euros to invest in a player we would normally not be able to sign.”

Levein reckons Clare will prove to be worth every penny. “For me, it’s a good investment. But like all good investments, you want to watch them perform, then his value goes up. My primary focus isn’t making the money (back from selling him). Why I think this is a really good deal for us is we’re getting a player who we normally wouldn’t get. The bonus is that he’s ours, he’s not on loan.

“If I could have signed Demi Mitchell on a permanent contract (from Manchester United), I would have. But very rarely do you get those opportunities. The way the cards have fallen, it’s worked out particularly well for us.”

Asked if the situation was comparable to Celtic being able to sign Moussa Dembele for £500,000 from Fulham two years ago, Levein said: “The difference with this one is that Sean was prepared to come in under our salary cap. I didn’t think we’d be able to get him on those terms but, to be fair to him, he’s a very sensible kid – and he sees this as a good move for him. If he can play regularly here, obviously that will elevate his chances of playing at the top level.”

Levein expects Clare to bring fresh power and dynamism to the midfield. “I see him as a player who can play in a four-man midfield because of his athleticism,” he said. “At times, it would be good to play with four in midfield and two out-and-out strikers. We’ve done that at home a few times and I think he’s good enough to play in there.

“He can cover the ground and has the technical ability to play centrally or out wide. It just brings us another strength to the team. We don’t have a player as mobile as him, someone with that pace, power, size and strength. All of those things make me feel good about having him available.”

Levein expects Clare to need a few weeks of intense training before he is ready to make an impact after recovering from a foot injury. He is unlikely to be involved against Livingston at Tynecastle tomorrow. “He has not trained with a team since March,” said the manager. “He has got to catch up and I think that will take him a couple of weeks. He is not on the same programme the rest of the players are on for this weekend, he’s got catch-up stuff to do and he will be in training this weekend as well. Give it a couple of weeks and he’ll be ready to go.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4803243.1537515254!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4803243.1537515254!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sean Clare has signed a three-year deal at Tynecastle","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sean Clare has signed a three-year deal at Tynecastle","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4803243.1537515254!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/scottish-football-live-sfa-tried-to-buy-hampden-for-1-moyes-heaps-praise-on-hearts-ace-steven-gerrard-s-self-belief-team-talk-1-4803328","id":"1.4803328","articleHeadline": "Scottish Football Live: SFA tried to buy Hampden for £1 | Moyes heaps praise on Hearts ace | Steven Gerrard’s self-belief team talk","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537513731000 ,"articleLead": "

Follow The Scotsman’s daily blog as we keep you updated with all the latest news, views, rumours and much more from around Scottish football.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4803327.1537513727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Leigh Griffiths scored a late winner for Celtic against Rosenborg"} ,"articleBody": "

Refresh for updates

" ,"byline": {"email": "finlay.greig@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Finlay Greig"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4803327.1537513727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4803327.1537513727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Leigh Griffiths scored a late winner for Celtic against Rosenborg","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Leigh Griffiths scored a late winner for Celtic against Rosenborg","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4803327.1537513727!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5798046043001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/craig-levein-this-is-the-strongest-hearts-squad-i-have-assembled-1-4803262","id":"1.4803262","articleHeadline": "Craig Levein: This is the strongest Hearts squad I have assembled","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537507841000 ,"articleLead": "

The depth of Hearts’ squad gives Craig Levein belief that they can maintain their impressive start to the season.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4803260.1537471053!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts players Oliver Bozanic, John Souttar, Jimmy Dunne and Olly Lee limber up in training"} ,"articleBody": "

The manager has been thrilled by the sight of his side tearing five points clear at the top of the Premiership after winning all five of their league matches so far. Although he is making no grand boasts about how long they can maintain their early surge, Levein is buoyed by the array of options at his disposal and the level of competition for places within what he feels is the strongest squad (depth-wise) he has had at his disposal in both of his spells as Hearts manager.

“I would say in terms of strength in depth it’s the strongest,” said Levein. “We’ve had a lot of good players in my time here at Hearts and some of the ones we have just now are maybe not quite at that level yet, but I think they might get there. But the squad? Absolutely.”

This new-found depth to the squad, in stark contrast to last season when he was heavily reliant on academy graduates, means Levein has plenty options to ponder ahead of selecting his team for tomorrow’s match against Livingston. “The squad, without doubt, is far more competitive than it was last season,” he continued. “Even yesterday I was looking at the team for the weekend and, even with us winning five games, I have three or four options and I’m looking at them and thinking, ‘I don’t know which one would be best’.”

After a couple of years of difficulty, Levein is revelling in watching his players at work as they strive to keep the early momentum going. “I’m enjoying it,” he said. “It is the type of pressure that is good. I have experienced other types of pressure that is not as good as this. I think it is just a case of sticking to the basics and doing everything properly in training every day. What we have got is hungry players, boys who have seen the move to Hearts as a step up, like Uche (Ikpeazu), for example.

“He came up here at the end of last season and watched the Hibs or the Celtic game and went away thinking, ‘wow, I really need to step up’ so he lost 6kg and worked really, really hard over the summer and came into this environment, and you watch him playing now and he is like a dog chasing ball. He is really enthusiastic and our punters love that. They love players who chase lost causes and play with the enthusiasm of a punter, running about with a smile on his face.”

Intensity levels on the training pitches at Riccarton are high, and the manager is embracing it. “When the training is good and at its best it is when everybody is flying into tackles, and I love that,” he said. “It’s like a match and if you can train the way you play, with that intensity, then it makes things easier on the Saturday. I’m fortunate to have quite a few who are happy to get stuck in, and people quickly realise that, if you’re not switched on, you get hurt. That means the tempo goes to a level where everyone is moving the ball quickly and not getting caught.”

Levein believes he has a squad equipped to thrive on the pressure of trying to keep winning and remain top of the table. “I hope that’s the case,” he said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve set off at a good pace and it’s a question of whether we keep that going.

“But that’s why I think having this strong squad, having boys like Sean Clare in the group, bringing Demi Mitchell and Steven Naismith back, these are all assets for what is going to be a long haul. If you don’t have a strong squad, the manager’s job is a lot more about cajoling and making sure everyone is at it for every single match. If you have competition for places they just turn round and look at the bench and think: ‘I had better get my finger out’.”

Hearts are unbeaten in ten matches in all competitions this season and have won nine of them. Asked if he had expected his new-look team to ignite so quickly, he said: “You never know, do you? It has all played out in my head since January, probably, finding a target man, finding pace, finding quality players who can play in a number of different ways.

“You are always hopeful but you need to win, and once you start winning, players think, ‘hang on a minute, we’re actually not bad’. You win another and then they they’re a wee bit better than that. So we’ll keep trying to win matches and see what happens.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4803260.1537471053!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4803260.1537471053!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts players Oliver Bozanic, John Souttar, Jimmy Dunne and Olly Lee limber up in training","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts players Oliver Bozanic, John Souttar, Jimmy Dunne and Olly Lee limber up in training","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4803260.1537471053!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4803261.1537471056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4803261.1537471056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts manager Craig Levein","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts manager Craig Levein","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4803261.1537471056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/april-2003-last-time-craig-levein-won-a-manager-award-as-hearts-boss-1-4802979","id":"1.4802979","articleHeadline": "April 2003: Last time Craig Levein won a manager award as Hearts boss","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537449363000 ,"articleLead": "

Craig Levein was today named Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Month for August. It’s been over 15 years since the Hearts boss last won a monthly prize while leading the Jambos. Here, we take a look back at April 2003...

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802977.1537449359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein with his managerial awards for April 2003, and August 2018. Pictures: TSPL/Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

The 2002/03 season was Levein’s second full campaign in charge of Hearts, and he got off to a flying start with a 5-1 win over rivals Hibs in the first home game of the season, with Mark de Vries bagging four as the Jambos ran riot.

Hearts only lost one game between August 3 and October 19; a 2-0 loss at Ibrox.

By the time April came around, Levein had lost just eight matches in total and was unbeaten in derbies. Hearts had recorded a come-from-behind win at Easter Road thanks to an injury time Phil Stamp winner and a stunning 4-4 draw with Hibs at Tynecastle thanks to Graeme Weir’s last-gasp double after the Jambos had looked dead and buried in injury time.

Of the eight defeats, three matches were lost to Rangers, two to Celtic, and one each to Dunfermline, Motherwell and Dundee.

Hearts won both March fixtures - a 2-1 win and 1-1 draw against Motherwell and Livingston respectively - and began April with a 2-1 home win over Dundee United thanks to goals from Andy Webster and Andy Kirk, after Danny Griffin had given the visitors the lead.

A 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle in week two was followed up by another 2-1 win, and another game that Hearts turned around after going a goal down.

Henrik Larsson scored the opener for Cetic on 59 minutes, before Phil Stamp equalised on 73 minutes, and Austin McCann netted an injury time winner to seal the three points for Levein’s side.

The final match of the month was a narrow 1-0 win over Dunfermline courtesy of a Steven Pressley penalty early in the second half at East End Park.

Hearts finished third behind Rangers and Celtic with a total of 63 points, with 18 wins, nine draws and 11 losses from 38 matches.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802977.1537449359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802977.1537449359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Craig Levein with his managerial awards for April 2003, and August 2018. Pictures: TSPL/Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein with his managerial awards for April 2003, and August 2018. Pictures: TSPL/Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802977.1537449359!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802978.1537449361!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802978.1537449361!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Levein and new signing Mark de Vries greet the press after the striker joins Hearts. Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Levein and new signing Mark de Vries greet the press after the striker joins Hearts. Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802978.1537449361!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/craig-levein-no-reason-hearts-can-t-hold-on-to-top-spot-1-4802918","id":"1.4802918","articleHeadline": "Craig Levein: No reason Hearts can’t hold on to top spot","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537444871000 ,"articleLead": "

Manager Craig Levein sees no reason why Hearts cannot stay top for the long term after labelling his team as hungry as any he has worked with.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802917.1537446020!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein reckons his team is as hungry as any he has worked with. Picture: SNS Group"} ,"articleBody": "

Levein’s side can extend their five-point lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership when they host third-placed Livingston on Saturday.

And, after winning 10 games in a row in all competitions, Levein is eyeing a lengthy stay at the summit.

When asked if he could see Hearts being there at Easter, Levein said: “I don’t see why not.

• READ MORE - Craig Levein named Scottish Premiership manager of the month for August

“We have lost Christophe (Berra), which obviously is a big blow. I would much rather have him available because his experience could be vital. 
“Hopefully we will get him back in December ready for the second half of the season.

“I think we need to keep everybody fit, our best players in particular, and hopefully we can keep churning out results.

“But we have a tough game on Saturday against Livingston, who have won their last three matches. 
“That’s a warning in itself that we can’t afford to go into this match other than completely 100 per cent focused on our jobs.”

• READ MORE - Hearts have ‘chance to build genuine title challenge’

Hearts finished sixth last season after Levein took charge several weeks into the campaign, and the manager highlighted two key differences.

“We have a stronger squad, which keeps players on their toes,” said Levein after collecting the manager of the month award for August.

“When they look over at the bench, they know they need to do more or better to stay in the team. That’s a good weapon for a manager to have.

“The other thing is I am certain this group of players is as hungry a team as I’ve worked with, which brings the intensity every day in training and in matches that you need to be successful.

“You look through our squad and see young, hungry, ambitious players and also some senior pros who have been through just about everything football could throw at you.

“Their attitude is just as good as when they first stepped on the training ground as a teenager.

• READ MORE - Big interview: Don Cowie reveals why he loved being Hearts player

“When I played here, we had those two things, and any good side I have had as a manager over the years has had those things.”

Levein used former Cambridge striker Uche Ikpeazu as the “perfect example” of the hunger he has added to his squad with 18 summer signings.

“Between coming up here at the end of last season and coming back he lost something like six kilos,” the former Scotland boss said.

“He worked his backside off over the summer because he knew if we were going to be pressing from the front, he would have to lead the press.

“And because he knew it was a step up for him, he worked out that he needed to do more over the summer to get himself in a position where he could play every week.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "GAVIN MCCAFFERTY"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802917.1537446020!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802917.1537446020!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Craig Levein reckons his team is as hungry as any he has worked with. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein reckons his team is as hungry as any he has worked with. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802917.1537446020!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/scottish-football-live-craig-levein-named-manager-of-the-month-southgate-considers-calling-up-scotland-player-michael-mols-was-nearly-a-celtic-player-1-4802570","id":"1.4802570","articleHeadline": "Scottish Football Live: Craig Levein named manager of the month | Southgate considers calling up Scotland player| Michael Mols was ‘nearly’ a Celtic player","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537436997000 ,"articleLead": "

Follow The Scotsman’s daily blog as we keep you updated with all the latest news, views, rumours and much more from around Scottish football.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802569.1537427747!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kyle Lafferty has opened up about his gambling addiction"} ,"articleBody": "

Refresh for updates

" ,"byline": {"email": "finlay.greig@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Finlay Greig"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802569.1537427747!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802569.1537427747!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Kyle Lafferty has opened up about his gambling addiction","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kyle Lafferty has opened up about his gambling addiction","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802569.1537427747!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5798046043001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/craig-levein-named-scottish-premiership-manager-of-the-month-for-august-1-4802796","id":"1.4802796","articleHeadline": "Craig Levein named Scottish Premiership manager of the month for August","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537436155000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts boss Craig Levein has been named manager of the month for August after his side’s perfect start to the 2018/19 campaign.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802795.1537436539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein wins the Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Month Award for August. Picture: SNS Group"} ,"articleBody": "

The Jambos currently sit top of the Scottish Premiership with 15 points from five matches and eight consecutive wins in all competitions.

An emphatic 4-1 away win at Hamilton on the opening day of the season was followed up with a 1-0 home win over Celtic.

A trip to East End Park to face Dunfermline in a Betfred Cup tie produced a 1-0 win before a hard-fought victory by the same scoreline over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.

Levein’s last manager of the month prize at Hearts came in April 2003, although the Tynecastle boss picked up four gongs between November 2006 and November 2009 during his time in charge of Dundee United.

Hearts host Livingston on Saturday, with the capital club aiming to make it six wins on the trot.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802795.1537436539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802795.1537436539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Craig Levein wins the Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Month Award for August. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein wins the Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Month Award for August. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802795.1537436539!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/don-cowie-i-could-have-stayed-but-i-want-promotion-with-county-1-4802299","id":"1.4802299","articleHeadline": "Don Cowie: I could have stayed but I want promotion with County","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537421441000 ,"articleLead": "

Don Cowie explained that the prospect of helping first club Ross County back up to the Premiership was too good to turn down once it became apparent that his game time at Hearts was likely to be reduced this season.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802298.1537367011!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Don Cowie, right"} ,"articleBody": "

The 35-year-old had a year remaining on his deal at Tynecastle but knew he faced stiff competition for a midfield place after a significant summer overhaul by manager Craig Levein. The offer of a three-year-contract, with the chance to play regularly and the prospect of a coaching role further down the line, ultimately tempted him to call time on his two and a half years at Hearts and return to Dingwall 11 years after he left to join Inverness.

“It wasn’t a case of being told I had to leave or anything - it was always in my court,” said Cowie. “I loved the club and I was settled where I lived with my family, so it was a big decision to leave Hearts. Had it not been Ross County, I’d probably stll be at Hearts. Craig said I could stay and be part of it and, although I wouldn’t have played as much, I’d have still enjoyed that because it’s such a special club. If I’d stayed, I’d have still played here and there but I’m at a stage of my career where I don’t have that long left so I want to play as much as I can. I had offers to stay in the Premiership but I felt if I went to Ross County I’d have the opportunity to achieve something special. I want to win the Championship and get back to the Premiership. I know time is running out, but after all the years I’ve been away from Ross County, it would be something special if I could play for them in the Premiership. That’s something I’d always wanted to do which I wasn’t able to do first time around.”

County sit second in an ultra-competitive Championship, a point behind Inverness. “The club had a difficult season last year but we’ve assembled a really strong squad with good camaraderie,” said County. “We know it’s going to be difficult because it’s a competitive league, with Inverness, Dundee United, Partick, Dunfermline... whoever puts together the most consistent run will win the league, and 
hopefully that’s us.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802298.1537367011!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802298.1537367011!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Don Cowie, right","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Don Cowie, right","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802298.1537367011!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-have-chance-to-build-genuine-title-challenge-1-4802480","id":"1.4802480","articleHeadline": "Hearts have ‘chance to build genuine title challenge’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537421437000 ,"articleLead": "

Don Cowie believes Hearts have enough factors going in their favour to be able to mount a genuine challenge for the Scottish Premiership title this season.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802478.1537387002!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts sit top of the Premiership with five wins from five"} ,"articleBody": "

The Tynecastle side are currently five points clear at the top of the table, having won all five of their matches so far, and four of their next six league games are at home. Cowie, who left Hearts to join Ross County last month, is convinced his former team’s early momentum, allied to the experience and depth within the squad, allows them to be considered contenders at a time when none of their traditional rivals have started the campaign particularly strongly.

“Losing’s a habit and winning’s a habit,” said Cowie. “All of a sudden Hearts have got used to winning matches again and that’s a powerful thing in football. To win five games on the trot in any league takes some doing. Not many teams have done that in Scotland recently. Think of the confidence they’ll have at the moment, and now they go into a period where they’ve got a lot of home games coming up, which gives them a chance to build on that momentum. Look at what Aberdeen have done in the last few years, particularly three seasons ago, when they pushed Celtic all the way after making a really good start. I see no reason why Hearts can’t do that if they just keep building, taking it game by game.”

Asked if he felt Hearts could win the title, Cowie responded: “Can Leicester City win the Premier League? Yes, they can. There’s no reason Hearts can’t do it. It’s just a case of building momentum and keeping rolling with it. Yes, you need a bit of luck along the way, with injuries and things like that. But Aberdeen haven’t quite fired yet this season, and Rangers and Celtic have got the Europa League, and playing Thursday-Sunday is really difficult.”

Cowie believes the key factor in Hearts’ improvement this season, after finishing fifth and sixth in their previous two campaigns, is that manager Craig Levein has been able to bolster his squad with players that suit his style and has also had a full pre-season to work with them.

“It’s great to see what they’re able to do now that Craig’s had a pre-season under his belt and signed the players he wanted to sign,” said Cowie. “There’s competition all over the park and the squad looks really strong. The fact Christophe Berra got injured at the start of the season and it’s not really affected things just shows how strong the squad is. There’s a lot of experience in the team compared to last year when a lot of youngsters played. The young boys all have tremendous potential and more ability than I’ve ever had but it’s hard for them to play week in, week out, like they had to do last year. This year it’s more experienced players, with a sprinkling of youth here and there. Callumn Morrison’s obviously played but Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald have not been involved as much. The manager’s now got the luxury of being able to dip them in when he wants rather than being forced to due to the squad being quite light. He’s got a real nucleus of senior professionals who have played for a number of years.

“Naisy (Steven Naismith) has had a really good start, so fingers crossed that he keeps scoring. Big Uche (Ikpeazu) has had a good start, then you’ve got the experience of Steven MacLean. It’s fantastic to see Arnaud (Djoum) back so quickly because he’s a brilliant player. If anyone can get the best out of him, it’ll be Craig. It’s just all positive at Hearts at the moment, and they’ve just got to keep it going.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802478.1537387002!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802478.1537387002!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts sit top of the Premiership with five wins from five","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts sit top of the Premiership with five wins from five","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802478.1537387002!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802479.1537387006!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802479.1537387006!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Don Cowie in action for Hearts","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Don Cowie in action for Hearts","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802479.1537387006!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/big-interview-don-cowie-reveals-why-he-loved-being-hearts-player-1-4802349","id":"1.4802349","articleHeadline": "Big interview: Don Cowie reveals why he loved being Hearts player","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537421417000 ,"articleLead": "

Don Cowie has no plans to hangs up his boots any time soon, hence his recent decision to sign a three-year contract with Ross County that he hopes will keep him playing at a good level well into his late 30s.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802348.1537428745!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Don Cowie enjoyed his two-and-half years at Hearts which included a winning goal against Hibs in the Scottish Cup last season"} ,"articleBody": "

When he does eventually call it a day, however, the 35-year-old Invernesian will have plenty fond memories to look back on. From representing local clubs Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle with distinction, to spending seven years in England’s top two divisions with Watford, Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic, to winning ten full Scotland caps, Cowie has plenty to be proud of. Playing for and captaining Hearts will feature just as prominently as any of those feats when the midfielder looks back on his personal highlights reels.

In two-and-a-half rollercoaster years, which ended last month when he moved to Dingwall amid increased competition for midfield places at Tynecastle, he scored five goals in 84 appearances under three different permanent managers and alongside dozens of different team-mates. Despite the seemingly constant of state of flux at the club, Cowie is delighted to have been a part of it.

“There were obviously a lot of ins and outs, and a lot of uncertainty in terms of the management changing a few times, but I wouldn’t have changed being at Hearts for the world,” Cowie told the Evening News. “I absolutely loved it. It’s a brilliant football club, run by special people in Ann Budge and Craig Levein. The highlight for me was just playing for Hearts. I’m from the north of Scotland and I probably didn’t appreciate how big a club it is until I joined. I had only been at Ross County and Inverness before – two very small teams in terms of Scottish football – so I had never seen what it was like to play in one of the biggest teams in the country. Once I was there, I just loved it, how passionate the fans are. I felt really lucky to be able to play for the club for two-and-a-half years and also to captain the team on a number of occasions – that was one of the highlights of my career. I’ve got some special memories from my time at Hearts for when I retire.”

Cowie’s time at Hearts can be divided into three phases. The first was under Robbie Neilson. After his early months – at the tail end of the 2015/16 season – were written off by injury, Cowie played almost every game of the following campaign. The season was shaping up well, with Hearts in second place and just starting to find real momentum when Neilson departed.

“Under Robbie we were going along nicely until MK Dons prised him away,” reflected Cowie. “That was really disappointing at the time because I felt we had a really good squad and had a great harmony in the dressing-room, and I felt we could have finished comfortably in the top three, top four that season. We had a steeliness about us and didn’t lose many games.”

Then came eight months under Ian Cathro when Hearts completely lost their way. With captain Perry Kitchen one of several of Neilson’s players who became marginalised under the new head coach, Cowie, as the senior member of the squad, tried his best to lead a new-look team through a desperately difficult period.

“Ian came in and obviously a lot has been said about his tenure at the club but I’ve got positive things to say about him,” said Cowie. “I learned things from him that I’ve not learned from other managers in my career, very fine details that he was very good at. But the reality is it was his first job and he was still learning. It was difficult because there was a big turnover of players in the January and we just never managed to get going. We had a couple of results here and there, against Rangers for instance, but not enough for a club like Hearts to be producing.”

Cathro was eventually sacked at the end of July last year, but by then the tone had already been set for what would prove another difficult campaign as Craig Levein stepped into the breach to try and steady the ship. Although Hearts finished sixth, Cowie noted enough last season to sense that they were heading back on the right road.

“Craig took over as manager at the end of the summer window but pre-season had gone by then and you can’t underestimate how important a pre-season is to set you up for the season ahead,” said Cowie. “It’s hard to catch up fitness-wise throughout the season because early in the week the boys are fatigued from the game on the Saturday so it’s hard to do hard work, then later in the week you’re preparing for the next game so it’s hard to fit it in. The intensity Craig wanted to play was different to how Ian wanted to play, so the sports scientists have to look at that because if you suddenly change the intensity, that’s when injuries happen. It was difficult last season but you could tell the model of the team that Craig wanted to have, and there were signs of it. You only had to look at how much he improved the team defensively, then this year he was able to sort out the rest of the team, such as the midfield and going forward, and the proof’s in the pudding now with how well they’ve started.”

The influx of new midfielders over the summer led to Cowie, by now 35 and a half, falling down the pecking order before he fixed up a move to County. Supporters were sad to see him depart, recognising that he had given everything for the cause and done more than most to try and keep the team on an even keel throughout a testing period for the club.

“I know what I am as a footballer,” he said. “I was never going to get the ball and take on three players and score a goal – that’s not me. I’ve got strengths that other players don’t. Yes, there were occasions when I’d like to have played better but, as a professional footballer, you have to give 100 per cent in every game and that’s something I’ve always done and will continue to do. Sometimes you play well, sometimes you play badly – that happens. But when you play badly you’ve got to at least make sure your opponent is also having a bad game. When the fans see a player working as hard as they can when they wear their strip, they appreciate that, and I think that was the case at Hearts.”

Cowie’s influence at Hearts was perhaps best underlined by a touching tribute from burgeoning team-mate John Souttar. “An incredible professional, player and man! Changed the way every young player at the club lived their life when he came in and made us all better players for it. Can’t thank him enough for everything I learnt off him,” tweeted the 21-year-old once Cowie’s move to County was confirmed.

“I had to pay him for that tweet,” jokes Cowie, whose respect for Souttar is reciprocated. “We signed the same day and even though there was a big age group, John was equally comfortable with the older boys or the younger boys in the squad. We just hit it off from the start and I still speak to him most days. I’m absolutely delighted for him because from moment one I could see how good a player he was. Yes, he was a bit raw at first and maybe not strong enough, which everyone’s highlighted, but people forgot how young he was when he signed. He’s only 21 now and he’s already got over 150 first-team appearance and now he’s in the national team. He’s got a massive future ahead of him.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802348.1537428745!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802348.1537428745!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Don Cowie enjoyed his two-and-half years at Hearts which included a winning goal against Hibs in the Scottish Cup last season","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Don Cowie enjoyed his two-and-half years at Hearts which included a winning goal against Hibs in the Scottish Cup last season","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802348.1537428745!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/no-serious-injury-for-motherwell-keeper-after-uche-ikpeazu-tackle-1-4802558","id":"1.4802558","articleHeadline": "‘No serious injury’ for Motherwell keeper after Uche Ikpeazu tackle","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537391721000 ,"articleLead": "

Motherwell have revealed that goalkeeper Trevor Carson suffered “no serious injury” in a tackle with Hearts striker Uche Ikpeazu last Saturday.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802557.1537391717!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Trevor Carson had to be replaced at Fir Park"} ,"articleBody": "

Carson had to be replaced by Mark Gillespie after the players clashed in a race to reach a short back-pass – Hearts striker Steven Naismith picked up the loose ball and scored the only goal of the game – and there were fears around the severity of his damaged ankle.

Carson tweeted a picture of his bruised ankle after the 1-0 win for the visitors while Well boss Stephen Robinson claimed the goal shouldn’t have stood.

However, the Fir Park club released a statement which read: “Trevor Carson suffered no serious injury in the tackle that saw him substituted during the weekend match with Hearts.

“Following scans on Monday and Tuesday, the goalkeeper was shown to have sustained no bone break or fracture.

“There is no other damage other than initial cuts, bruises and minor soft tissue damage. The Northern Ireland international is an injury doubt for the 
weekend trip to Aberdeen and will continue to be assessed.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802557.1537391717!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802557.1537391717!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Trevor Carson had to be replaced at Fir Park","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Trevor Carson had to be replaced at Fir Park","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802557.1537391717!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/ex-hearts-winger-david-milinkovic-vows-to-save-hull-career-1-4802539","id":"1.4802539","articleHeadline": "Ex-Hearts winger David Milinkovic vows to save Hull career","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537387614000 ,"articleLead": "

Former Hearts wideman David Milinkovic has vowed not to give up as he fights for his future at Hull City.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802538.1537428701!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Milinkovic was a hit during his loan spell at Hearts but has found himself frozen out at Hull City. Picture: SNS Group"} ,"articleBody": "

The winger became a firm favourite with the Tynecastle faithful while on loan last season from Genoa, but despite the capital club agreeing a fee with the Serie A side, Milinkovic’s wage demands meant the deal fell through.

Soon after he was signed by Hull City, putting pen to paper on a three-year deal with the English Championship side.

But the 24-year-old French-born midfielder has played just 41 minutes of football, all as a substitute, under Tigers boss Nigel Adkins, and hasn’t been named in the matchday squad for recent matches.

But Milinkovic hasn’t given up hope of resurrecting his Hull career, and took to Instagram where he posted a photo of himself mid-training session, with a caption in French reading: “While I wait for my chance, I’m training hard every day.

“Last season I proved what I’m capable of. If I have to put up with this every day it’s okay, I will be stronger when I return.

“I’ve too much fire in my belly, soon I will be back on a football pitch doing what I love.

“God is great and sees everything. Patience and work are the fruits of success.”

At the start of the month, the Serbian posted a picture on social media with the caption: “Milinkovic remains Milinkovic even if people don’t want to let me do what I do best in life.

“Anything goes, it doesn’t matter - Milinkovic will be even stronger with even more desire and determination.

“My qualities have proven to everyone who I am. God sees everything and nothing happens by chance.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4802538.1537428701!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4802538.1537428701!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "David Milinkovic was a hit during his loan spell at Hearts but has found himself frozen out at Hull City. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Milinkovic was a hit during his loan spell at Hearts but has found himself frozen out at Hull City. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4802538.1537428701!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/big-interview-sean-clare-on-why-he-chose-surprise-hearts-move-1-4801902","id":"1.4801902","articleHeadline": "Big interview: Sean Clare on why he chose surprise Hearts move","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537335004000 ,"articleLead": "

Sean Clare’s decision to sign for Hearts after leaving Sheffield Wednesday has raised eyebrows in some quarters, but the midfielder is adamant his move to Tynecastle offers him everything he needs to accelerate his development as a footballer.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801901.1537341659!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts' new signing Sean Clare is pictured at a new community football initiative called Play the Game. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The Londoner, who turned 22 yesterday, was highly regarded at Hillsborough and was offered a new contract after forcing his way into the first team earlier this year following loan stints with Bury, Accrington Stanley and Gillingham. Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Leeds United, Aston Villa and Rangers were among a host of clubs linked with him when he declined the chance to extend his deal with the South Yorkshire club, but, after a summer of recuperating from a foot operation and pondering his next move, he finalised a three-year contract with Hearts on Sunday, to the surprise of many down south.

“I just thought it was the right thing for me to move on,” said Clare. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Sheffield Wednesday and have no bad feelings towards anyone there. I just felt at this moment in time I needed to be here to kick on and improve myself.

“I can understand why some people have questioned the decision to come up here, but it is difficult to understand moves if you aren’t in my shoes. I’m sure if I had a conversation with people then they would understand it more. I expected that reaction and it doesn’t faze me. People don’t know exactly what is going on in my head.”

Having made just 44 senior appearances thus far, Clare’s priority was ensuring he picked a club that would allow him to play regular first-team football and start fulfilling his clear potential. In the end, he felt Hearts, riding high in the ever-improving Scottish Premiership and with a clear desire to give young talent a chance, was the best option.

“I had to take my time to think, I had to make sure my injury was right – it is now, it’s all perfect – and coming here, I felt the management staff really wanted to make me better,” Clare explained. “That’s something I want. I believe in myself, but to have coaches that really believe in you is important and can kick you on ten more levels than you ever thought you could get to.

“This is a tough league, a hard league to win games in, and players of my age should think about it (coming to Scotland). Especially at this stage of my career, I feel that I can benefit from working hard to get in the team and, once I’m there, playing regular games in difficult situations. I’ll come out of that a much better player than signing somewhere else and maybe not playing.”

Sheffield Wednesday would have been subject to training compensation if Clare had signed for another English club, but the player insists that wasn’t a factor in him ending up in Scotland. “I don’t think my compensation was a lot regardless of the club,” he said. “With the clubs I did speak to in England, that was never a problem, so I don’t think that hindered anything – and it didn’t sway my decision. I came to Hearts because I wanted to be here.”

Clare watched from the Fir Park main stand on Saturday as his new team moved five points clear at the top of the Premiership with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Motherwell. “I wasn’t sure what to expect from that game but it was a battle,” he said. “Like the manager said, it’s a great result for us against a very good side and a very tough side to play against. I enjoyed it and I was trying to see where I could fit in to the team, but first I’ve got to work my way in to it.”

As a man who signs off his Instagram posts with the hashtag #SeanFlair, Clare is intent on entertaining the Tynecastle support. “I’m very direct and like to dribble with it, a lot of taking players on – but obviously not too much, the team’s more important,” he said. “I think I can bring a very direct nature, goals and assists from set pieces or within the game. I’m someone who’s very athletic, energetic and really passionate to win games and trophies.”

Clare’s playing style has been compared in the past to that of Tottenham and England superstar Dele Alli. “I’ve had that comparison but I’ve never said it,” he laughed. “I think it’s potentially because we look fairly similar. I can see why people have said it because we have a similar running style and we both like to get involved in goals and assists. I probably dribble a lot more with the ball and am more direct than him but I definitely look at his game to take bits from it that I feel can improve my game.”

A whopping 33 years have elapsed since any team outwith Celtic and Rangers last won the Scottish title. As someone who grew up in England, Clare is unburdened by this weight of history and sees no limits to what he can help his new team achieve. “My honest opinion is any team in this league can really win it if they really knuckle down,” he said. “Some teams have a higher budget or this, that and the other but anything is possible. In football, once you get on the pitch it’s 11 v 11 but coming in to a team that’s top of the league is a great feeling. The boys are buzzing, the staff are buzzing, training’s really fast and everyone’s working really hard to be better for the next game and keep winning. We’ll just have to see how far it takes us.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801901.1537341659!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801901.1537341659!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts' new signing Sean Clare is pictured at a new community football initiative called Play the Game. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts' new signing Sean Clare is pictured at a new community football initiative called Play the Game. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801901.1537341659!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/craig-levein-s-greatest-spats-as-hearts-manager-1-4801757","id":"1.4801757","articleHeadline": "Craig Levein's greatest spats as Hearts manager","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537279102329 ,"articleLead": "

Following Dundee United's strongly worded rebuttal of Craig Levein's claim that the Championship club nearly ruined John Souttar's career, we look back at some of the Hearts manager's most memorable spats since taking the reins just over a year ago.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801755.1537279219!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein has enjoyed his fair share of spats since taking the reins at Heart of Midlothian (Photo: SNS)"} ,"articleBody": "

Craig Levein v Derek McInnes: 'He's at it ain't he?'

Just nine days into his second tenure as Hearts boss Craig Levein engaged in his first war of words.

His first victim was to be Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes who complained when his side were unable to train at Hearts' temporary home, Murrayfield Stadium.

In trademark fashion the former Scotland manager opted for a less than diplomatic approach and claimed that McInnes was \"at it\".

READ MORE: Dundee United slam Craig Levein’s ‘derogatory’ John Souttar comments
He said to Sky Sports News: \"“He’s at it ain’t he? Come on.

“Listen, we don’t have many advantages just now and I’m certainly not going to give up one that we do have and that is to be able to train on the pitch.

“The pitch is excellent, and Aberdeen’s pitch will be excellent just now as well. I don’t really think there’s a great advantage.\"

The game finished a 0-0 draw.

Craig Levein v Neil Lennon: 'Natural order restored'

It was following a victory over city rivals Hibs that Craig Levein would come out with arguably his most controversial quote.

The joker-in-chief claimed that \"natural order\" had been restored when Hearts overcame Hibs in a derby for the first time in ten games.

Unsurprisingly Neil Lennon and the Hibs faithful didn't take kindly to the veteran managers post-match jibe with the former saying: “I think he was pandering to the masses with the comment.

“I think it’s derogatory to my club, my players, our supporters and me. I just find it in really poor taste.\"

Undeterred by the outcry he had caused Levein described the spat as \"just a laugh\".

But, it was ultimately Hibs fans who had the last laugh when the sides next met. A section of fans unveiled a banner reading 'NATURAL ORDER?' in the closing minutes of a Hibs trumph.

Craig Levein v Michael Stewart: 'worst value for money I have ever had from any player'

No one is safe from Levein's trademark insults, not even ex players. Just ask Michael Stewart.

In December last year Stewart accused Levein of living in a “parallel universe” on BBC Sportsound after the Hearts manager claimed the team were “fantastic” in their goalless draw with Ross County.

Levein struck back, slating the pundit and his employer, the BBC.

“It is personal and he is just making a fool of himself. I don’t particularly like him and I hear he doesn’t like me.

“I’m actually not that bothered about Michael Stewart or what he says but I am annoyed at the BBC. For him to admit that he has an agenda and for them to still allow him that platform, for me, that is a nonsense.

“He is trying to whip up fans and as I say it is the BBC... they have allowed him that opportunity but I have had a conversation so we will see what happens.”

Levein also added that Stewart, who he signed on loan from Manchester United during the 2004/2005 season, was the “worst value for money I have ever had from any player”.

Craig Levein v Scott Brown: 'Harry bossed him'

Craig Levein's finest moment so far of his second stint as manager of Hearts came back in December 2017 when his team thumped a Celtic side unbeaten in 69 games 4-0.

Just over a month later the sides faced off again and Celtic captain Scott Brown, apparently determined to stamp his authority on the game, put in a robust challenge on 16-year-old Harry Cochrane which saw the youngster subbed off for Prince Buaben.

Following his side's 3-1 defeat Levein singled out Brown for the tackle suggesting that Brown had been embarrassed in the previous fixture.

He said: \"I watched it back and I think Scott had decided after the game at Tynecastle, when Harry bossed him, he wasn't going to let that happen.

\"I've known Scott for a long time and he is aggressive in the way he plays.\"

Brown's manager Brendan Rodgers leapt to the midfielders defence stating: \"If you go back to the game itself, there were more fouls made by Hearts players than Celtic players.\"

In Celtic's next game Brown received a yellow card which Celtic's number 8 claimed Levein was responsible for.

He claimed: \"I was booked with my first foul and I think that is exactly what Craig was looking to do.\"

Levein determined to have the last word responded suggesting that Brown had earned the booking intentionally in order to avoid suspension for an upcoming Old Firm Derby.

He said: \"I think if you look and see if Scott didn't get booked against Kilmarnock last week and he got booked against St Johnstone then he would have missed the Rangers game. I'll leave you to deduce what that means... I think you'll find his intentions were to always get booked in that game so he doesn't miss the Rangers game.\"

Craig Levein v Brendan Rodgers: 'he can moan and bleat all he wants'

Craig Levein' and Brendan Rodgers exchanged barbed comments again before the season came to a close.

Following a 3-1 victory over Hearts, Brendan Rodgers bemoaned the tactics his team were required to employ due to an untrimmed Tynecastle Park pitch.

He said “that wasn’t football.\" before saying he was \"embarrassed\" by the state of the pitch.

Levein was unapologetic, claiming: \"There's not a level playing field in Scotland and I make no apologies for staying within the rules and trying to win the game. He can moan and bleats all he wants but it'll be the same again next season.\"

When quizzed on whether he had asked the groundsman to allow the grass to grow, Levein stifled a chuckle and said \"maybe\".

The spat was reignited ahead of the pair's fixture earlier this season, with Levein criticising “crazy” attempts to dictate maximum length of grass in Scottish football and vowed to be unmoved by Brendan Rodgers’ criticism of the Tynecastle pitch.

Asked how the pitch was shaping up for the crunch match, Levein joked: “It’s a bit long just now, that’s all I can say.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "Finlay.Greig@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Finlay Greig"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801755.1537279219!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801755.1537279219!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Craig Levein has enjoyed his fair share of spats since taking the reins at Heart of Midlothian (Photo: SNS)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein has enjoyed his fair share of spats since taking the reins at Heart of Midlothian (Photo: SNS)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801755.1537279219!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"3000000001598695"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/dundee-united-slam-craig-levein-s-derogatory-john-souttar-comments-1-4801622","id":"1.4801622","articleHeadline": "Dundee United slam Craig Levein’s ‘derogatory’ John Souttar comments","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537274841000 ,"articleLead": "

Dundee United have hit out at comments made by Craig Levein suggesting that the Tannadice club nearly ruined John Souttar’s career, branding the remarks “derogatory and misleading”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801620.1537270936!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Souttar spent ten years at United in total before joining Hearts in 2016. Picture: SNS Group"} ,"articleBody": "

The Hearts manager suggested that the Tannadice club had jeopardised the 21-year-old’s future as a footballer by playing him in a number of different positions.

Levein said: “I’m not being disrespectful but they nearly ruined his career. Right back, left back, centre midfield. 
“It’s quite confusing for a young player when you are being moved into three or four different places and no-one has got your back and is giving you the support you need.

“I’m talking disparagingly but United sold all their best players and he was left behind and he became an easy target.

“It says everything about him that he has taken himself from that position where people thought he was one thing to moving up to someone who I think will be a mainstay for the Scotland national team for a long time.”

But United have hit out at Levein’s comments, expressing their disappointment at the former United manager’s view on Souttar’s development.

In a statement posted on the club’s website, United said: “We are very disappointed to read the derogatory and misleading statement attributed to the manager of a fellow Scottish FA member club relating to ex-United player John Souttar.

“As a club, we are rightly proud of our long-standing and widely held reputation for developing young talent. 
“John played top-level football for four seasons having made his debut under Peter Houston at the age of 16 years and 100 days.

“In total, John played 73 times in Dundee United’s first-team and represented his country at all age groups up to and including Under 21s during his time at the club.

“We are extremely proud that one of our youth academy graduates has now progressed into the full Scottish national team and are delighted to have played a significant part in John’s development as a professional footballer.

“We wish John well in his future career.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801620.1537270936!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801620.1537270936!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "John Souttar spent ten years at United in total before joining Hearts in 2016. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Souttar spent ten years at United in total before joining Hearts in 2016. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801620.1537270936!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801621.1537270940!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801621.1537270940!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Craig Levein made the comments as he hailed Souttar's rise to full Scotland international. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein made the comments as he hailed Souttar's rise to full Scotland international. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801621.1537270940!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5785066117001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/rumour-mill-rangers-man-denies-exit-rumours-celtic-line-up-craig-gordon-replacement-sfa-urged-not-to-help-rangers-1-4801470","id":"1.4801470","articleHeadline": "Rumour Mill: Rangers man denies exit rumours | Celtic line up Craig Gordon replacement | SFA ‘urged not to help Rangers’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537259864000 ,"articleLead": "

Rangers striker denies claims he’s on his way out of Ibrox, Celtic earmark a replaecment for Craig Gordon and ex-SFA chief reveals club chairman begged him not to help Rangers

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801468.1537259859!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Lassana Coulibaly (left) with Umar Sadiq at a Rangers training session. Picture: SNS Group"} ,"articleBody": "

Sadiq denies exit talk

Rangers striker Umar Sadiq has played down talk linking him with an exit, insisting: “Let’s just see how the future turns out.”

The towering Roma forward is yet to start a game under Steven Gerrard and has made just three appearances as a sub, while the form of Alfredo Morelos and fellow summer acquisition Kyle Lafferty has given Sadiq little chance to impress.

He said: “It’s just too early to talk about leaving. I am here to play football and know it won’t be easy. It’s a privilege to work with a legend like Steven Gerrard. I’m working hard in training and we’re doing the right things.” (All Nigeria Soccer)

Have Celtic earmarked Craig Gordon replacement?

Celtic scouts watched Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman in action for the Magpies’ Under-23 side last week amid rumours that the Hoops could return for the former Aberdeen and Kilmarnock No.1.

The ‘keeper joined the Dons on loan last season but Brendan Rodgers’ side attempted to hijack the deal at the eleventh hour.

And with Woodman out of contract at the end of this season and yet to agree an extension with Newcastle, Celtic could move in January to snap up the England Under-21 star for a reduced fee. (Various)

Club chairman begged me not to help Rangers, claims ex-SFA chief

Former SFA President George Peat has sensationally claimed that a “prominent” club chairman asked him not to help Rangers as the Ibrox side competed in the 2008 UEFA Cup final.

The Gers played five games in 11 days at the end of the 2007/08 domestic campaign, with the finale delayed by four days so all top six teams finished on the same day.

Peat was asked about his time at the SFA, and said: “One thing in particular disappointed me. When Rangers got to the [UEFA Cup] final, I got a call from a prominent chairman requesting me not to help Rangers in any way.

“That really stuck in my throat.” (BBC Scotland)

Dundee United nearly ruined John Souttar - Levein

Hearts boss Craig Levein has claimed Dundee United nearly ruined John Souttar’s chances of becoming a Scotland mainstay.

Souttar earned his first caps against Belgium and Albania but former Scotland boss Levein admitted he feared for the youngster after seeing him repeatedly played out of position at Tannadice.

Levein said: “He has always been a centre-half. I’m not being disrespectful but they nearly ruined his career. Right back, left back, centre midfield. It’s quite confusing for a young player when you are being moved into three of four different places and no-one has got your back and is giving you the support you need.” (Evening News)

Hibs close in on Nelom deal

Hibs are closing in on a deal to sign Dutch full-back Miquel Nelom.

The 27-year-old former Feyenoord left-back is a free agent after leaving the Rotterdam club during the summer.

The two-times Netherlands internationalist has held talks with Easter Road representatives and Hibs hope to conclude a deal within the next few days. (Evening News)

Killie eye O’Donnell deal

Kilmarnock are keen to hand Scotland international Stephen O’Donnell a bumper new deal to keep him at Rugby Park.

O’Donnell still has two years left on his contract after joining last summer, but the 26-year-old has starred for Killie and has forced his way into the international squad.

Rugby Park chiefs are keen to tie him down on a new deal with English clubs monitoring the player’s situation. (The Sun)

Hearts’ title odds slashed

The odds on Hearts winning the Scottish Premiership title have been slashed from 500/1 to 16/1 - but they still sit behind Celtic and Rangers.

A 1-0 win over Motherwell at Fir Park on Saturday made it five league wins out of five for the Jambos with jubilant fans chanting: “We’re going to win the league” as Hearts went five points clear.

However, Celtic remain favourites on 2/7 and Rangers are currently priced at 7/1 to end the Hoops’ domination. (Various)

Kamberi avoided op to score winner against Killie

Hibs striker Flo Kamberi has revealed how his faith in a leading German specialist allowed him to clinch the winning goal against Kilmarnock.

The Swiss hitman had been forced to miss his club’s previous two games with fluid in his knee which was severely restricting his matchday preparations.

But during the international break he went to Bavarian-based orthopaedic specialist Christian Hendrich who had helped him overcome a similar injury in the past and ruled out the need for an operation on the knee. (Evening News)

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801468.1537259859!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801468.1537259859!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Lassana Coulibaly (left) with Umar Sadiq at a Rangers training session. Picture: SNS Group","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Lassana Coulibaly (left) with Umar Sadiq at a Rangers training session. Picture: SNS Group","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801468.1537259859!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5825835348001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-scottish-premiership-title-odds-slashed-after-100-start-to-season-1-4801498","id":"1.4801498","articleHeadline": "Hearts Scottish Premiership title odds slashed after 100% start to season","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537258959000 ,"articleLead": "

League leaders Hearts' title odds have been slashed from 500/1 to just 16/1 as they maintain their remarkable start to the season.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801497.1537256127!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts' title odds have plummeted to just 16/1 (Photo: SNS)"} ,"articleBody": "

The Gorgie side secured their fifth win in a row against Motherwell on Saturday, moving them five points clear of current league champions Celtic.

Hearts fans who made their way through to Fir Park could be heard chating “We’re going to win the league” throughout their triumph over the Steelmen.

And it looks like they aren't the only ones who fancy their side to go the distance. Over the weekend, more than 70 per cent of bets have been placed on the Premiership trophy going to Tynecastle.

The odds of Craig Levein's side clinching a Premier League triumph have now shrunk to just 16/1 following the surge in betting. Punters who shop around, however, could still clinch odds as high as 40/1.

Celtic still comfortable favourites

Despite sitting five points adrift of Hearts, Double Treble winners Celtic remain firm favourites to win the league for an eighth time in a row - they are priced at a paltry 2-7.

A new look Rangers side are second favourite with odds of 7/1, despite sitting seven points behind Hearts after just five games.

Oddschecker spokesman George Elek said of the surge in bets: “It has certainly been an unexpected, blistering start to the season for Hearts but it is very early doors to be even discussing a title race.

“However, Hearts’ start to proceedings in the league have made both bookies and punters sit up and take notice – with the boys in Maroon strolling their opening five games.

“After Leicester’s title win, punters have been looking for the next big upset and they clearly believe it could happen in the Scottish Premiership this season.”

Hearts next fixture is against a plucky Livingston side on Saturday and a further win could see their title odds sink even further.

" ,"byline": {"email": "Finlay.Greig@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Finlay Greig"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801497.1537256127!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801497.1537256127!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts' title odds have plummeted to just 16/1 (Photo: SNS)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts' title odds have plummeted to just 16/1 (Photo: SNS)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801497.1537256127!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"3000000001598049"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-boss-revels-in-john-souttar-rise-after-career-nearly-ruined-1-4801209","id":"1.4801209","articleHeadline": "Hearts boss revels in John Souttar rise after ‘career nearly ruined’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537219800000 ,"articleLead": "

The sight of John Souttar at the centre of Scotland’s defence in between playing a captain’s role in a table-topping Hearts side has filled Craig Levein with pride.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801205.1537254778!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts boss Craig Levein has been pleased by John Souttar's development. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

As both manager and director of football at Dundee United when the defender was in his fledgling days within the Tannadice club’s youth ranks, Levein has tracked Souttar’s career from the outset and has always backed the him to grow into one of the country’s most pre-eminent centre-backs. Despite his own unflinching belief in Souttar’s ability, however, Levein had reason to fear that this young talent may be snuffed out a few years ago by what he deemed mismanagement on the part of his former club, as they played him out of position in a team which was nosediving towards the Championship after being shorn of its best players.

Souttar, despite still being a teenager, became a scapegoat for the team’s struggles as he lost his way following a promising start to his United career after being given his debut by Peter Houston as a 16-year-old. Many had written him off as too soft to be a centre-back in Scotland, as his prospects of fulfilling his early potential appeared to be dwindling. Levein, then director of football at Hearts, and Robbie Neilson, the head coach, rode to the rescue when they brought him to Tynecastle as a 19-year-old in January 2016. In the intervening two-and-a-half years, he has been transformed from a confidence-shorn kid who had lost his way into a dominant, ball-playing international centre-back, now with two full caps to his name after starting the recent matches against Belgium and Albania at Hampden. Levein admits he feels like a proud parent.

“I’m thrilled for John and his family,” said Levein. “I’ve known John since he was about 12 years old at Dundee United. His dad sent me a picture of me coaching John at Dundee United with the caption ‘where have the years gone?’ I was thinking that myself. Because of my close relationship with John and how well I get on with his mum and dad then I might not be as proud as they are but I’m quite a bit down that road. The way his career developed and had gone off the rails a little bit, people had pigeon-holed him. That’s what we do in Scottish football. People said he wasn’t tough enough to be a centre-half.”

Levein is adamant that Souttar was always destined to be a centre-back and that United shouldn’t have tried using him in different positions. “He has always been a centre-half,” said Levein. “I’m not being disrespectful but they nearly ruined his career. Right back, left back, centre midfield. It’s quite confusing for a young player when you are being moved into three of four different places and no-one has got your back and is giving you the support you need.

“I’m talking disparagingly but United sold all their best players and he was left behind and he became an easy target. It says everything about him that he has taken himself from that position where people thought he was one thing to moving up to someone who I think will be a mainstay for the Scotland national team for a long time.”

Levein believes that Souttar’s natural physical development has been a key factor in his emergence as a main man at both club and international level. Wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of influential skipper Christophe Berra, the 21-year-old has looked in his element as the linchpin of the defence over the past five weeks. “A lot of people in Scottish football formed an opinion of John Souttar three years ago and that came from Dundee United,” said Levein.

“I think it dogged him for two or three years and it has taken him three years of playing regular football, obviously he was out injured for a while, to prove he can gain the strength and aggression required to play at the highest level. I have said previously playing as a young centre-back in the league is a difficult thing to do. John playing at 16, 17 at Dundee United was exceptional. I came to Hearts from Cowdenbeath at 19 and couldn’t win a header for two years because of the quality and the strength of the senior players I was up against. So, for me, with John it was just about patience until he physically developed.

“I mean, he got booked against Albania for as clean a header as you will ever see. It was a terrible decision. Interestingly, when you get to international football, the aggression and physicality comes back down a level compared to the game here at club level.

“Here we play teams who throw the ball in on top of our centre-backs from the first minute to the last minute. That doesn’t happen in international football, it’s more about what is going on in your head and understanding that it’s a different type of football. But my point is things people said John can’t do, he is doing them every week now. And one of the biggest compliments I can pay him is you wouldn’t know our captain and possibly our best player isn’t playing.”

Levein, a former Scotland manager, is excited by the prospect of Souttar linking up with 21-year-old Aberdeen centre-back Scott McKenna for the national team in the coming years. “If John and McKenna could form a partnership in four years’ time we could have a really exciting central defensive pairing,” he said. “Once you get to 25 as a centre-back then it becomes easier for you. But it’s a good position to be in. I don’t know McKenna as well as I know John but he looks to be a top, top player. It’s good news.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801205.1537254778!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801205.1537254778!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts boss Craig Levein has been pleased by John Souttar's development. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts boss Craig Levein has been pleased by John Souttar's development. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801205.1537254778!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801206.1537254780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801206.1537254780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Levein feels Dundee United 'nearly ruined' Souttar's career. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Levein feels Dundee United 'nearly ruined' Souttar's career. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801206.1537254780!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801207.1537254783!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801207.1537254783!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Souttar won his first caps for Scotland in the recent matches against Belgium and Albania. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Souttar won his first caps for Scotland in the recent matches against Belgium and Albania. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801207.1537254783!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801208.1537254786!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801208.1537254786!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Levein believes Souttar can strike up a partnership at international level with Aberdeen's Scott McKenna. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Levein believes Souttar can strike up a partnership at international level with Aberdeen's Scott McKenna. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801208.1537254786!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5800712439001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/christophe-berra-hopes-to-return-for-hearts-before-christmas-1-4801386","id":"1.4801386","articleHeadline": "Christophe Berra hopes to return for Hearts before Christmas","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537209311000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts captain Christophe Berra is making strong progress in his recovery from injury and is hopeful of returning to action before Christmas.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801385.1537255241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Chrstophe Berra"} ,"articleBody": "

The 33-year-old has been sidelined since tearing his hamstring in the victory over Celtic at Tynecastle just more than five weeks ago. The initial prognosis was that he may be out for as long as six months, meaning he could have been absent until February. However, Berra has been recovering well since undergoing the first operation of his career last month and is hoping to be back at the centre of Hearts’ defence earlier than anticipated.

“I’ve got a time in my head but I can’t reveal that because I don’t think the physios would be happy,” he said when asked when he expected to return. “I’ve passed all my targets so far, so hopefully it’s sooner rather than later. I won’t be back for Hallowe’en but it would be great if I could get back before Christmas. Fingers crossed.”

Hearts have won all four matches since losing Berra to injury and have conceded only one goal in his absence as they have motored five points clear at the top of the Premiership and booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup. The defender, who hopes to come off his crutches imminently, is relishing the prospect of returning to action with a high-flying team.

“I’m in week five of my recovery and it’s going well,” Berra told Radio Scotland. “I’ve been in the swimming pool and I’ve been working with the physios day in, day out.

“It’s the first time for me that I’ve had a big injury that’s kept me out for a long period but I’m just really positive about trying to make sure I come back stronger than before. Hopefully the team are still going well when I get back and I can come back in and be like a new signing.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801385.1537255241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801385.1537255241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Chrstophe Berra","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Chrstophe Berra","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801385.1537255241!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-steven-naismith-in-pole-position-for-scotland-striker-berth-1-4801350","id":"1.4801350","articleHeadline": "Hearts’ Steven Naismith ‘in pole position’ for Scotland striker berth","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537202868000 ,"articleLead": "

Scotland coach James McFadden says Hearts striker Steven Naismith is in “pole position” to keep his place in the national team when they play Israel next month in the Nations League.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801349.1537202864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steven Naismith is in fine form for Hearts. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

Naismith bagged a goal and assist in last week’s 2-0 win over Albania and the in-form 32-year-old has enhanced his credentials as Scotland’s main striker.

Responding to Celtic forward Leigh Griffiths’ expression of disappointment after reading reports that Steven Naismith was first choice to face Israel, McFadden said: “The manager’s comments were maybe taken a bit out of context.

“He didn’t mean Steven Naismith was going to be the number one striker and that was it, case closed. He meant that, from his performances, and the way he trained, that he was in pole position to hang on to the jersey. And quite rightly so, I would have given him the other goal as well and made it two goals.

“Steven’s sharp. Last season when he came into Hearts he looked as if he was lacking fitness and sharpness.

“Because he has had a couple of serious injuries, you were maybe thinking that was Naisy on the slide. But he’s had a fantastic pre-season.

“He had problems with his heel towards the end of last season and he seems to have sorted them out, he has a programme that he sticks to.

“He was breath of fresh air coming into the Scotland training, as was shown by his performances as well, and that’s why he was picked.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801349.1537202864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801349.1537202864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Steven Naismith is in fine form for Hearts. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steven Naismith is in fine form for Hearts. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801349.1537202864!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-winger-callumn-morrison-signs-new-contract-1-4801346","id":"1.4801346","articleHeadline": "Hearts winger Callumn Morrison signs new contract","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537201866000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts winger Callumn Morrison has been rewarded for his first-team breakthrough with a new three-year contract.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801345.1537201862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Callumn Morrison has made nine first-team appearances this season"} ,"articleBody": "

The 19-year-old has made nine first-team appearances this season for the Ladbrokes Premiership leaders after waiting three years to add to his first two.

Morrison has enjoyed loan spells with Stiring and Brechin in the intervening years.

“I’m delighted to sign a new deal with Hearts,” he told the club’s official website.

“The manager has shown a lot of faith in me this season and I’d like to thank him and my team-mates too.

“I’ve really enjoyed my football this season and it’s been great to be part of a team that has started the season so well.

“It’s an incredible feeling to pull on the maroon jersey and I can’t wait to do it many more times and hopefully give the fans even more reasons to cheer.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801345.1537201862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801345.1537201862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Callumn Morrison has made nine first-team appearances this season","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Callumn Morrison has made nine first-team appearances this season","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801345.1537201862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/five-things-hearts-fans-should-know-about-new-signing-sean-clare-1-4801176","id":"1.4801176","articleHeadline": "Five things Hearts fans should know about new signing Sean Clare","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537190769000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts have completed the signing of former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sean Clare. Finlay Greig finds out more about Hearts’ 18th signing of the season...

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801175.1537255056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sean Clare celebrates a goal for Gillingham against AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Getty Images"} ,"articleBody": "

Made by Nike

Sean Clare started his football career with the Nike Academy, a revolving squad of under-20 players without a club.

The academy have helped find professional clubs since 2009 with notable alumni including Celtic’s Tom Rogic and Santos FC’s Bruno Covas - not bad company.

In 2016, the then 19-year-old was picked up by Sheffield Wednesday who signed him on an initial one-year contract.

First name on the team sheet

During a loan spell with League One outfit Gillingham, Clare made a big impression.

Fans and coaches praised the youngster for his exciting style of play and his professionalism during his 26-match spell at the Priestfield Stadium.

Speaking to Kent Online last year, Gills manager Steve Lovell revealed that the loanee was among the first names on the team sheet during his spell.

He said: “He can run, he can move, he can read the game well and has great feet. He showed that on Saturday (against Bury) and was one of our better players, consistently, in the 90 minutes.

“Sean is one of the first names down on the team sheet every week and if he keeps playing like he is doing, then that will continue to be the case.”

Energetic and athletic

Sean Clare made a handful of appearances for the Owls’ first team, including an eye-catching performance against Aston Villa capped off with a stunning edge-of-box half volley.

Pacey and skilful with an imposing 6 ft 3 frame Clare certainly stands out from the crowd.

In his own words he loves “being on the ball” and “being able to dribble but moving it when I need to.

“[I’m] someone who’s quite exciting for the fans to watch, I feel. “ he said

“It can be quite fun to watch me when I’m in full flow, but someone who will always give 100 per cent and has passion to win games, win trophies, win leagues and give everything for the team, the fans and the people managing me.”

Wanted man

During the Summer transfer window Clare rejected a contract extension with Sheffield Wednesday resulting in a flurry of interest from a number of English clubs.

Speaking to Hearts TV the new signing revealed that: “There was interest in England, from the Premier League and the Championship.”

Clubs who were reportedly interested in the 21-year-old include Leeds United, Swansea City, Aston Villa and Premier League club Fulham.

Mr Versatile

Despite making just 44 career appearances, Clare has operated in six different positions.

The bulk of his appearances have come at right midfield, but he was deployed five times at right back during his spell at Gillingham, notching an assist in a 1-1 draw with Wigan in October last year.

The Gills were unbeaten with Clare in the defence, winning three and drawing twice.

Clare has also operated at left midfield, attacking midfield, central midfield and defensive midfield and his versatility is likely one of the many factors that attracted Craig Levein to the 21-year-old.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "FINLAY GREIG"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801175.1537255056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801175.1537255056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sean Clare celebrates a goal for Gillingham against AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Getty Images","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sean Clare celebrates a goal for Gillingham against AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Getty Images","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801175.1537255056!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5795246155001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/comment-right-now-hearts-fans-have-every-reason-to-be-excited-1-4801096","id":"1.4801096","articleHeadline": "Comment: Right now, Hearts fans have every reason to be excited","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537184657000 ,"articleLead": "

Something special is brewing at Tynecastle. So much so that for the first time in over a decade, Hearts are taking it on the road. Saturday’s 1-0 victory at Motherwell brought the club’s third away league victory in succession to start the season.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801092.1537184374!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts fans packed out the away section at Fir Park and were rewarded with a 1-0 win over Motherwell. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The last time such a feat had been achieved, George Burley was in the dugout, Vladimir Romanov was in the stand and messrs Hartley, Skacel, Pressley, Gordon and Fyssas were in the starting XI.

If the start of the enduring 05/06 season was built on a rampant attack which blitzed teams, leaving them dazed and confused, then the 2018/19 breed are more chameleon-like.

That has been the case from the very start of the Betfred Cup campaign as the team have not only improved drastically but continued to morph into whichever incarnation is required to get three points or progression in the cup.

On Saturday, defender Clevid Dikamona was the 24th player to feature this season already as he made his debut from the bench. This writer has previously criticised the turnover of players and the vast number which have been used in recent seasons. However, in this case it simply highlights the depth the squad possesses.

There is a robust, talented and experienced spine in Zdenek Zlamal, John Souttar, Olly Lee, Peter Haring, Steven Naismith and Uche Ikpeazu. Around them players can be put in or taken out, moved around and shifted with ease without comprising the solidity and quality of the collective.

The win over Motherwell arrived without Christophe Berra. Harry Cochrane was injured. Craig Wighton and Ben Garuccio were on the bench but did not feature. The effervescent Anthony McDonald and Danny Amankwaa were not in the match day squad. David Vanecek will arrive in January, while Sean Clare, who has the management team very excited, has just signed.

Craig Levein now has an abundance of options and genuine quality competition. Players know they face a challenge just to stay in the starting XI. Certain standards are required. If they don’t play well they at the very least need to show a work ethic and compete. It is this which has made Hearts into a more consistent outfit, no longer pushovers.

Tactically, the range of options keeps fans guessing, let alone the opposition. On paper, the XI which started against Motherwell looked like it was going to be 3-5-2. Conclusions were finally reached well into the first half that it was 4-1-4-1 with a great deal of flexibility within it.

Although not at his best despite scoring the winning goal, Steven Naismith is key to it all. His versatility and intelligence allowed Levein to station him out on the left knowing he would craftily support Ikpeazu. The way he scuttled onto a loose ball to score at Fir Park showed just that. He is also Scottish football’s finest pointer, cajoling, encouraging and dictating team-mates.

During the first half when Hearts were still adjusting to the game, Naismith was in constant dialogue with Hearts assistant Austin MacPhee. He is the management team’s voice on the pitch.

Yet, it’s not him that wears the captain’s armband in Berra’s absence. That task belongs to Souttar. Imperious, colossus, dominant. Just some of the words used to describe his performance against Motherwell.

The 21-year-old was joined in the middle of defence by 20-year-old Jimmy Dunne. Both stood up to the aerial and physical threat posed by the Steelmen. Previously, a striker like Curtis Main would have had a field day against such a partnership. Him and Ryan Bowman were kept on the leash as if Souttar and Dunne were out for a leisurely stroll around the park.

Souttar was man of the match. The new Scotland international continues to grow in stature. Improving as a defender’s defender has not affected his ability on the ball. He was composed throughout and played a couple of quarterback passes out to Michael Smith on the right. It was a captain’s performance as he relished the competitiveness of the encounter.

He’s an early contender as a candidate for player of the season. And if Aberdeen value Scott McKenna at over £6million, it would be interesting to hear their valuation of a player who is more rounded and has more experience.

In the matter of a few months, so much has changed around Tynecastle. Yet, perhaps the biggest change surrounds the relationship between team and fans and even the club and fans. The frustration and anger from last season seeped into this season, and with Hearts struggling against Raith Rovers in the Betfred Cup group stages, Levein was berated from the stands. There was the feeling it could turn mutinous sooner rather than later.

Now there is a vibrancy among the support. None more so than when the team are in their travels. From The Hope CBD Stadium to East End Park and Rugby Park and then to Fir Park, thousands travelled in fine voice and positivity rather than the passiveness which was a hallmark of the away following for a number of seasons, largely replicating the team’s performances on the road.

The support is engaged, revelling in this new found upturn and a synergy with a team and players which give them energy.

Hearts have two winnable – but not easy – league fixtures at home in Livingston and St Johnstone to come before a trip to Ibrox to face Rangers as they look to match the 05/06 side’s eight leagues wins in a row and 12 games unbeaten to stay the season.

Right now, Hearts fans have every reason to be excited.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801092.1537184374!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801092.1537184374!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts fans packed out the away section at Fir Park and were rewarded with a 1-0 win over Motherwell. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts fans packed out the away section at Fir Park and were rewarded with a 1-0 win over Motherwell. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801092.1537184374!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801093.1537184377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801093.1537184377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Steven Naismith has become Hearts' talisman in attack. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steven Naismith has become Hearts' talisman in attack. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801093.1537184377!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801094.1537184380!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801094.1537184380!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts have a solid spine, starting with Zdenek Zlamal in goal. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts have a solid spine, starting with Zdenek Zlamal in goal. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801094.1537184380!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} , {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4801095.1537184382!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4801095.1537184382!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "John Souttar put in another assured performance at centre-back for Hearts. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Souttar put in another assured performance at centre-back for Hearts. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4801095.1537184382!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/we-want-hearts-fans-to-believe-says-defender-jimmy-dunne-1-4800763","id":"1.4800763","articleHeadline": "We want Hearts fans to believe, says defender Jimmy Dunne","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537162227000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts’ 2922 jubilant travelling supporters bounded out of Fir Park on Saturday singing “we shall not be moved” as they savoured the most significant victory yet of what is threatening to become a special season for Craig Levein’s team.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4800761.1537169639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steven Naismith strokes home the only goal at Fir Park"} ,"articleBody": "

With Celtic’s unexpected slip-up against St Mirren on Friday paving the way for them to go five points clear at the top of the Premiership, this was a test of Hearts’ mettle. Could they handle the challenge of trying to maintain a 100 per cent winning start in the league at a ground where they had lost both times last term and against a Motherwell side buoyed by a three-game unbeaten run, including a spirited 3-3 draw with Rangers in their last home game? Indeed they could.

From the moment they overcame a testing opening 28 minutes to take the lead through Steven Naismith’s eighth club goal of the season, Hearts rarely looked like leaving Lanarkshire with anything other than three points. They came under pressure at times, but coped superbly with it and still threatened to add to their lead with some impressive counter-attacks which were just lacking a clinical finish.

They now find themselves cast as the first team outwith Celtic to command a five-point advantage at the summit of the Scottish Premiership since Aberdeen did likewise after a 3-1 win at Tynecastle in September 2015. The Dons proceeded to take only one point from their next five games and Celtic duly took control. Hearts, with strength in depth in all areas and a couple of winnable home games against Livingston and St Johnstone next up, look equipped to stick around the top for a while longer.

No-one is quite ready to declare them genuine title contenders at this point. There are, after all, still 33 matches to go, while the weight of recent history counts against them, with 33 years having elapsed since anyone outwith Celtic or Rangers last won the Scottish title. The traditional Glasgow heavyweights still have significantly greater resources than Hearts, but the Tynecastle side are currently getting more bang for their buck, with a strong collective and a positive vibe allowing them to outperform two teams with more illustrious names and individual talent. How long this run – eight wins in a row in all competitions – can continue remains to be seen, but supporters are certainly not being urged to dampen their enthusiasm. And why should they when an already strong squad is set to be bolstered by the addition of Sean Clare, David Vanecek and Christophe Berra in the weeks and months ahead?

“Anything is possible in football,” said on-loan Burnley defender Jimmy Dunne, who was immense alongside John Souttar as Hearts restricted Motherwell to few clear chances.

“This league has changed over the last few seasons and it looks a lot more open than it used to. With the start we’ve had, we have put any doubters to the side and we look a real threat at the top of the table. Coming to Hearts, I saw an amazing opportunity considering how open the league is. It is open, we have a chance and we are just trying to build something.”

When asked if it was possible for Hearts to win the league, Dunne said: “I haven’t thought about winning the league as I have only played three games. All I am thinking of is getting a clean sheet in the next game and building on our performance.

“At the same time, if we keep winning then anything is possible. Fans always dream and without that, we’d get nowhere. We want the fans to believe in us. The support they showed at Fir Park was immense. I’ve never seen anything like it. We need that backing and with the support, and the effort we are putting in, I feel like we can go a long way.”

Dunne has recent experience of being part of a remarkable footballing story after helping Accrington Stanley win promotion from England’s League Two for the first time in their history while on loan there last season. “Accrington’s promotion was proof that everything is possible,” said the 20-year-old. “It was a lesser story than Leicester City winning the Premier League but we came from nowhere. Nobody thought we would get promoted but we fought in every way we could to get there, and the hard work paid off.

“I sense something special in this dressing-room. There is a great atmosphere and sense of belief. We have real charismatic leaders. There is a mixture of young players and older pros, which is vital. There are no massive egos. We have a bunch of hard-working, honest lads.”

This strong team ethic has taken Hearts to a level nobody could have predicted when they ended last season in sixth place after a 1-0 defeat at Kilmarnock a mere four months ago. The transformation in the intervening period has been remarkable.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4800761.1537169639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4800761.1537169639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Steven Naismith strokes home the only goal at Fir Park","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steven Naismith strokes home the only goal at Fir Park","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4800761.1537169639!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4800762.1537169642!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4800762.1537169642!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jimmy Dunne holds off Motherwell's Peter Hartley","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jimmy Dunne holds off Motherwell's Peter Hartley","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4800762.1537169642!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5785575081001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/gary-mackay-this-hearts-team-has-potential-to-get-even-better-1-4800765","id":"1.4800765","articleHeadline": "Gary Mackay: This Hearts team has potential to get even better","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1537162000000 ,"articleLead": "

If you’ve got a five-point lead in any league, you’ve earned that by being the best team in it to that point.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4800764.1537169946!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steven Naismith celebrates"} ,"articleBody": "

Five points is a good cushion at any stage of the season, and it’s not easy for a chasing pack to turn it round. While Hearts are trying to continue this run and amass points, we have to hope that our closest rivals keep dropping points.

We have the luxury of knowing that if we drop points, we can’t be knocked off the top straight away, which is a wonderful position to be in. It is too early to say we’ll be up there at the end of the season but, having won every game at a time when none of our rivals have managed that, we certainly look like a team that can challenge.

We have made significant improvement very quickly. I made no secret of my concerns about the level of player turnover over the summer but the new-look squad has gelled far better and far better quicker than I could have imagined. We’ve got Arnaud Djoum back in the equation and now Sean Clare to add to the mix so both those players should kick us on again in the coming weeks. The squad is building a real spirit and resilience and I’d like to think there’s still plenty more scope for improvement. If that materialises, who knows where it can take us.

We’ve now got a good chance to keep the run going at home to a Livingston side who have punched above their weight so far. They’ve shown they won’t be easy to beat but if you’re top of the league having won every game, Livingston at home is not a game you should be overly worried about.

We’re likely to have a big crowd at Tynecastle on Saturday and as supporters we’ve got to keep playing our part in pushing the team on because we have to recognise that there are a lot of new players in this team who are new to being top of the top league in the country. That brings its own challenges, in terms of pressure and opponents raising their game against you or sitting in and being hard to break down, but the continued backing of the Hearts support can make a difference and help maintain the positivity running through the club at present.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4800764.1537169946!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4800764.1537169946!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Steven Naismith celebrates","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Steven Naismith celebrates","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4800764.1537169946!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5785575081001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}