Gary Mackay: Let's make a fresh appointment - there are plenty of good options
Our Hearts columnist has his say on who he wants next in the Tynecastle hotseat
It’s never nice to see anyone losing their job but given the level of discontent among the supporters for such a long period of time, Craig Levein’s position had become untenable.
Considering the level of investment at the football club over the past few years, to be sitting joint-bottom of the Premiership with just one win after the first round of fixtures simply isn’t good enough.
With the squad of players we have, we have to be doing considerably better than we have been. Craig will know that himself. He played for at a time when top managers at Hearts like Alex MacDonald and Sandy Jardine, and then Joe Jordan were sacked despite having previously had high league finishes at the club. If you’re a Hearts manager sat at the bottom of the league, there’s only going to be one outcome.
It’s never nice when it happens but I don’t think there’s any doubt that it was the right decision.
I don’t think we’ll ever see anyone have quite as much control within a football club as Craig Levein has had although it remains to be seen if that has fully come to an end, as it looks like he may be remaining in a kind of lurking capacity, which I don’t feel totally comfortable with at a time when the opportunity to make a completely fresh start. Whoever comes in to take over as manager, will they feel totally comfortable if Craig is still there in the background?
I think ever since Robbie Neilson left three years ago, the first team hasn’t moved forward at all, either in terms of results or playing style. With the quality of players we have had within the group, we’ve played nowhere near enough good football in recent seasons.
I feel there has to be real freshness with regard to the next appointment. There are quite a few managers in Scotland who will feel they have a decent claim to getting this job. There aren’t many fashionable candidates currently available but that doesn’t matter to me as long as we get a man who is able to build a coherent team that plays with passion and a bit of style, and ultimately is able to deliver consistent results befitting of the expectation at our football club. Robbie Neilson and John Robertson have both had a crack at the job previously and are both doing well in the Championship at present. Both will feel they are now more experienced than when they had the job before. Of those two, Robbo is probably getting slightly more bang for his buck at Inverness.
In the Premiership, both Stephen Robinson and Tommy Wright have been punching above their weight at Motherwell and St Johnstone. I wouldn’t be averse to either of those two being considered. Even Angelo Alessio, who many had their doubts about in his early weeks, has done a brilliant job at Kilmarnock. He has built a really good team unit there, and that’s something we’ve not had at Hearts. We’ve had plenty good individuals but we have often looked fragmented as a unit. We don’t consistently attack and defend as a unit and that’s something the new man will have to instil. Derek McInnes would obviously be an outstanding contender but I’m not sure it would be within our financial capabilities to attract a man of that calibre.
This is an opportunity for the club to get back on track. I would suggest to the board that it may be worth seeking the advice of someone of the calibre of a Jim Jefferies-type who can help with the procedure of appointing the next manager. There will be plenty candidates because it’s an attractive job but it’s absolutely imperative that we get it right because, quite frankly, as a football team we have become a shambles in recent seasons.
In the short term, I hope the players and the supporters get a lift for the weekend’s semi-final against Rangers. It may be that a fresh voice in the dressing room, in the form of Austin MacPhee, helps reinvigorate the players and gives them a sense of freedom at Hampden. Ultimately, however, what happens on Sunday is not the be all and end all for Hearts. The most important thing is that we get things absolutely right within the football department so that we can start the job of getting things back on track after three years of regression.