Hearts fans have turned on manager Craig Levein - where does the club go from here?

As the game headed towards stoppage time the chant started, then grew more audible.

By Joel Sked
Sunday, 1st September 2019, 9:48 am
The Hearts support have turned on Craig Levein. Picture: SNS
The Hearts support have turned on Craig Levein. Picture: SNS

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“Levein must go. Levein must go. Levein must go."

Hearts were drawing at home to Accies having been ahead twice. An Accies side which, if we are to tell the truth, are one of the poorest in the Premiership. Worryingly, the visitors were the team more likely to score a third and take three points.

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The Hearts support have turned on Craig Levein. Picture: SNS

Soon came another chant. Louder and more inclusive. Fans in all four stands joining in.

"Craig Levein, get out of our club."

This wasn't a small element. This wasn't a "pile" of fans expressing their displeasure at the club’s manager. This wasn't a knee-jerk reaction. This was a support taking a stand. Enough is enough.

Hearts fans want change. And it is now, without doubt, a majority.

Once again, the Jambos started the game slowly. There was a positive surge before and after Sean Clare's opener and the introduction of recent signing Ryotaro Meshino. The initial pessimism in the crowd evaporated for a short spell.

However, Accies took advantage of really slack defensive play - which is itself becoming a feature of the team - not once but twice, either side of Christophe Berra's headed goal.

2-2 at home to Hamilton. Four games so far in the league and only two points. The winless run in the Premiership extends to 11 games.

Laid bare in stats, Craig Levein cannot dispute the fact that for too long - ten months - Hearts have been bottom-six fodder. A level well below their stature, their budget, their squad.

Since winning 3-0 in Dundee on October 23 - a result which kept them top of the Scottish Premiership table - the Tynecastle club have played 32 league matches. They have won seven games.

In the league they have won two games at home in 2019. Once a fortress, it now resembles an arcade. 'Step up, see what you can win!' St Mirren, Kilmarnock, Livingston, Dundee (relegated), Ross County and Hamilton have all won at least a point. Hibs earned their first away derby success since 2013.

Since that Dundee victory - which seems an eternity - there have been only eight clean sheets in Scottish Premiership action.

The one, the only positive in that time, was last season’s Scottish Cup run. Hearts progressed past Livingston (at home), Auchinleck Talbot (at home), Partick Thistle (two attempts) and Inverness CT in the semi-final before going down in the final to Celtic.

Some fans, so desperate for a return to Hampden Park, still felt that Scottish Cup final - win or lose - should have been Levein's swansong.

But the club's former defender, its current manager, current director of football goes on. Insisting that he will turn around, that he "can fix this".

Bluntly, Hearts supporters are tired of being told that their manager understands their frustrations, that he feels them too. And the good times are around the corner.

They must feel as if they are stuck in one of Richard Serra's 'The Matter of Time' sculptures at the Guggenheim in Bilbao. They walk and they walk, around in circles waiting to reach their destination. Just when there seems to be a turning point they are back where they started. Never ending, stuck in the same cycle.

In his programme notes for the Hamilton fixture, Levein said: "With the likes of John Souttar and Steven Naismith to return shortly, and the addition of Ryotaro Meshino - we will have a very strong squad of players, perhaps the strongest since I took over as manager again."

Those words are damning. A squad of players with more than 200 international caps between them. It is arguably the third-strongest in the league.

Prior to Hearts meeting with Celtic at Parkhead last Sunday, Levein told the media: "It’s getting crazy. It used to be you’d get to November before anything happened to managers. Then it was October. Now, if you lose a pre-season game people lose their s***.

“It’s the immediacy of it all. People want things to happen now."

While the Hearts boss has a point, he has been in charge of nearly 100 games in his second spell and overseen four transfer windows.

Levein’s predecessor, Ian Cathro, got seven months and 30 games.

So, where does Levein go from here? Where do the fans go? Most importantly, where does the club go?

They cannot continue to go down the same road in which they have been travelling, not when supporters are investing so much for the club to become fan owned.

Craig Levein, particularly in his role of director of football, has done so much positive since returning to Hearts, putting structures in place, a thriving academy, helping create an environment which has persuaded Manchester City and Manchester United to send players to develop.

But Hearts sit second bottom of the Scottish Premiership on goal difference, no progression in sight, and the fans, fed up with the performances they are being served, have turned.

A trio of wins over Motherwell, Hibs and Aberdeen after the international week is a must, but even then, it may just not be enough for a Hearts icon to survive.