Ann Budge reveals Craig Levein role as Hearts plan revamp of medical department in bid to reduce injuries
Tynecastle chief taking steps to curb injury nightmare
Ann Budge has revealed a revamp of Hearts' medical unit will be at the centre of the planned overhaul of the football department as she seeks to solve the club's injury conundrum.
Over the past two seasons, there have been more than 20 lengthy lay-offs involving first-team regulars. Some of them have rushed back shy of their peak and found it even more difficult to stem the negativity in a struggling team, while others have been paid but helpless and frustrated spectators for months.
Austrian midfielder Peter Haring hasn't played since the Scottish Cup final in May 2019 while defender and Scotland international John Souttar lasted just 39 minutes of Hearts' opening day defeat to Aberdeen at Pittodrie and has been sidelined with an ankle problem since.
Centre-back Craig Halkett, strike duo Uche Ikpeazu and Steven Naismith, midfielders Jamie Walker and Callum Morrison, club captain Christophe Berra and former loanee Demetri Mitchell have all spent lengthy amounts of time on the sidelines over the past two campaigns.
While there seems no obvious reason that the Gorgie squad are more susceptible to knee ligament damage, broken bones or hamstring tears than any other team, if injuries do occur again, Budge wants to be sure it is not due to anything the medical or coaching staff are doing wrong nor that they can be attributed to the training facilities used by the players or the personal programmes they are instructed to follow.
Speaking to the Evening News' sister title The Scotsman, the Hearts owner outlined her thoughts on what the Tynecastle club can do to limit injuries going forward.
'Have we done something wrong? Is it the Riccarton pitches?'
“For the last two seasons we have been asking, ‘Why are we getting so many injuries? Why are we getting so many of a particular type? Are they happening on the training ground or during games?’ Have we been doing something wrong? Are the Riccarton pitches to blame? We have asked if we could be guilty of doing something that is contributing to this.”
While a review failed to produce a definitive explanation, it did highlight key areas that need dealt with.
Budge added: "We want to pull the sports scientists, the physios and the doctors more closely together so we can get a more rounded view on what the issues are. I want to get the medical department sorted and that will be another senior appointment."
With the help of former manager Craig Levein, Budge is looking for that person she can trust to make sense of what each department is telling her and put an end to the idea of Riccarton as part training ground, part hospital.
“Craig has been here for six years and he still has a lot to offer in continuing to develop the youth side of football and he is also working with me to see how we strengthen and build a better medical department," Budge explained.
"There are all sorts of different groups who all have to work together to try to ensure not just our first team get the best possible attention but our reserve team and our academy. It is actually quite a big operation and we need to invest a bit more in that.”