There is no such thing as a ‘Craig Levein team’ and, if there is, the Hearts manager has little interest in building one solely in that image.
That was the insistence of the Tynecastle boss after his side made it three wins from three to begin the 2018/19 Ladbrokes Premiership campaign with a 1-0 victory over ten-man Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, a result which keeps the Jambos top of the table with a three-point lead over Celtic. The only goal of the game arrived eight minutes from time when Uche Ikpeazu headed superbly past goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald from the edge of the penalty area. The big striker, who arrived from Cambridge United this past summer, is fast becoming a talisman for his new side and is already drawing comparisons with a former Levein disciple, Mark de Vries. The Dutchman was a mainstay of the successful Hearts sides of the early noughties, where Levein’s side were known for their direct football and physical style of play.
However, the man who’s rebuilt the team almost from scratch during the current transfer window insists it’s not a case of recreating the squad he left 14 years ago to join Leicester City. He just wants a side that will win more games than they lose in Scottish football.
“I think certain things in this league work, it’s about trying to put as many of those things together in the team to win matches,” said the Hearts manager.
“People say things like ‘a Craig Levein team’. I just want a team that wins. We’ve won the first three matches but there’s a hell of a long way to go.
“We’ll add some players before the window closes to get us more strength in depth.”
Levein should feel buoyed by his latest foray into the transfer market as Jimmy Dunne excelled in his first appearance for his new side after arriving on loan from Burnley.
The 20-year-old started alongside captain John Souttar in the away defence and helped record a vital clean sheet. Even though their task was made easier by the harsh red card given to Gary Dicker for a clumsy challenge on Callumn Morrison, the young pairing didn’t allow their hosts a clear-cut opportunity throughout the 90 minutes. Levein, though, is not resting on his laurels as he looks to recruit further cover before the window closes after losing Christophe Berra to long-term injury.
“We need another centre-back, I think, even though the two young boys were top drawer. Kris Boyd is still handful, even if he’s 42 or whatever it is,” joked Levein.
“I thought they handled it very well. Jimmy was the real tonic. I feel good about them, but with Aaron Hughes out with a calf strain, if one of those two got injured we’d be struggling.”