Ann Budge: I was too slow to remove Craig Levein as Hearts boss

Hearts owner admits she was too slow to relieve former Scotland manager of his duties at Tynecastle

Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 10:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 10:19 pm
Ann Budge has admitted she should have relieved Craig Levein of his duties in the summer

Ann Budge has admitted to Hearts shareholders that she should have removed Craig Levein from his duties as first-team manager in the summer.

Instead, the board backed him, allowing him to continue in the dual role of manager and Director of Football and bring in new players. It was a temporary reprieve, though, and one that she has now branded a mistake.

The club are currently 11th in the Ladbrokes Premiership and only above bottom-placed Hamilton on goal difference.

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Levein was removed as manager at the end of October, following a disastrous start to the new season but, in feisty form as she addressed a packed and sometimes antagonistic crowd at the club’s Annual General Meeting, Budge refuted the suggestion that her failure to act sooner had tarnished the reputation of one of the club’s top servants, and denied she had been guilty of showing ‘blind faith’ in the person she recruited as her right hand man when she took over the club more than five years ago.

“I don’t think I’ve tarnished Craig’s reputation [by keeping him on so long]. I took Craig on with a very specific remit in mind and he helped me re-establish the football operation at Hearts," she said.

“I didn’t ask Craig to offer his services as first-team manager. In truth, I was very uncomfortable with it. But I spoke to him, the board spoke to him and he wanted to do it and we wanted to back him.

“It could quite easily be said, ‘yes, I made a mistake’. The other mistake I think I made was in not looking for a new manager in the summer. So, I made a couple of mistakes. But it wasn’t blind faith.”

MacPhee 'working from home'

Levein proved a contentious topic with many shareholders angry that it had taken so long for the axe to be wielded and of the opinion that all links should have been severed when it was.

Budge also revealed that Levein - who remains at the club in a director of football capacity - continues to help out with the academy and medical set-ups, but that he stays away from the club in the mornings, while his assistant coach Austin MacPhee is tasked with recruitment and video analysis and works from home. The chairwoman said that while the contract did not expire until May it remains to be seen if he, and assistant manager Austin MacPhee would remain in situ until then.

“They shouldn’t,” was the shout from the floor.

“That’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it but I think they both have something to give, which is why I’m allowing them to stay," she replied.

Shareholders were also told that the club is currently £400,000 behind in its revenue targets for the financial year and there are no contingency plans for relegation, but she assured the assembly that if the team's situation did not improve over the next couple of months, she would have to reconsider her strategy.