Craig Levein open to Dundee United return as he reveals Robbie Neilson admission on Hearts job

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Levein managed United between 2006 and 2009

Craig Levein would be open to a return to Dundee United as manager.

The ex-Hearts boss also revealed that he isn’t surprised Robbie Neilson left Tannadice for a second spell as Tynecastle boss.

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In a whirlwind few hours on Sunday, the 40-year-old was revealed as Daniel Stendel’s replacement, much to the surprise of many.

Craig Levein has backed Robbie Neilson to be a success at Hearts. Picture: SNSCraig Levein has backed Robbie Neilson to be a success at Hearts. Picture: SNS
Craig Levein has backed Robbie Neilson to be a success at Hearts. Picture: SNS

Except Levein.

He told BBC Sportsound that he was “not at all” surprised and that Neilson has “unfinished business” at Hearts.

“I had a long conversation with Robbie in November,” Levein said. “At that point he intimated that he would like to come back to Hearts at some point. I didn’t think it would be as soon as this. I don’t want to put words in his mouth but I think he regretted leaving at the time that he did.

“He went to Hearts as a 15-year-old kid so he’s got a really strong connection [with the club]. He did say to me at some point he would like to come back.

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Asked if he believes Neilson to be the right appointment, Levein said: “Time will tell, of course.”

He added: “I believe in Robbie as a football manager. I think he definitely has the qualities to be successful, he’s already done it in all honesty.

“I also think for Ann there’s a level of familiarity which will help to get the relationship going very quickly.”

United are now on the lookout for a replacement for Neilson with Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest leading the club’s preparations.

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Levein was manager at Tannadice between 2006 and 2009, leading the club to the 2008 League Cup final and helping overhaul the academy.

He revealed he would be open to having a conversation over a possible return.

“I had four years at Dundee United and as much as I loved my time at Hearts that four years was quite special for me,” he said. “I managed to build a really strong team.

“I would never say never to the Dundee United job but I don’t know the structure at Dundee United. It is something I would need to look at in great detail if I get offered the chance to get the job before accepting.

He added: “Having a conversation is something that would be interesting.”