Judging all 31 Craig Levein signings as manager of Hearts
Breaking down the former manager's success in the transfer market across his two years and two months in charge.
The Hearts board and owner Ann Budge eventually ran out of patience on Thursday afternoon as the club decided to relieve Craig Levein of his duties as manager.
Having spent over two years and two months in the job there was little sign the team were heading in the right direction under the ex-Scotland boss. They currently sit second bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership table after the first round of fixtures with just one victory to their name.
Levein took over from his predecessor Ian Cathro towards the end of the 2017 summer window, so it took him a while to assemble his own team. When he did, though, he did in spectacular fashion, amassing 18 signings the following summer.
Hearts started that campaign on fire, leading the Ladbrokes Premiership table and reaching the semi-finals of the Betfred Cup. From there, though, the wheels came off and Levein was never fully able to get them back on track.
A Scottish Cup final appearance followed, helped by a fortunate draw en route to Hampden, but for over a year the club performed as a relegation candidate. Injuries have been a significant factor, but when further reinforcements were made this summer there was finally a squad who should've been able to compete in spite of the club's woes.
In total, 31 players were signed, the majority of which are still at the club. There's a feeling that the squad is strong enough to finish in the European places, but if that's to be the case then several players who have to show more than they did for the man who signed them.
We breakdown each of those signings and place them into one of seven categories to fully understand how the manager/director of football performed in the transfer market across his tenure.
Steven Naismith, Peter Haring
We're just one section in and I'm already being kind on the former manager.
There's absolutely no doubt that Naismith and Haring are both talismanic stars of the first-team when they're fit. Haring is a midfield destroyer and ideal for the brand of football Levein wanted to play. As for Naismith, well, history would suggest that had he been fit this campaign then Levein would still be a job.
On the other hand, we can't get away from the fact they've played precisely three games of football between them this season and only a dozen since the start of March. It's hard to be a star if you're injured. But, seeing as I've been in a good mood since quarter past four today, I'll remove the rope and let them enter the VIP area.
David Milinkovic, Uche Ikpeazu, Jake Mulraney, Jimmy Dunne, Craig Halkett
Ikpeazu could be pushing for an inclusion alongside 'The Stars' given his cult hero status among the support. Put simply, he's great fun to watch. The way he bullies defenders so easily is often a thing of beauty. But it's hard to anoint a forward who struggles to score goals regularly. Dunne also could have been placed in the upper tier had he been at the club a little longer.
Mulraney was arguably Levein's biggest success story. He took a player who was struggling in the Championship and made him a decent (not great, but decent) top flight winger. Milinkovic also improved across his lone season at Hearts and was a fans favourite by the end, though there was always the feeling his manager never fully trusted him.
Halkett was a great bit of business and has impressed already. He should get even better when he returns from injury and the players around him improve.
THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
Demetri Mitchell, Clevid Dikamona, Ryotaro Meshino, Glenn Whelan
Mitchell was great in his first loan move and underwhelming in his second before getting injured. Again, I've decided to be kind.
Dikamona routinely looks decent when he plays - his performance, while clearly in severe pain, in the 1-0 win at Easter Road in December 2018 was nothing short of heroic - and yet his manager didn't seem to have much faith in him.
Meshino and Whelan have both looked good in matches so far this season. The former has provided some much needed spark in attack, even if he does go missing in games, while the latter has lent experience to a central midfield corps that's badly needed it. Though it would be a little strong to call either of them "hits" so soon into their Tynecastle career.
THE JURY'S OUT
Bobby Burns, Ben Garuccio, Aidy White, Jamie Walker, Conor Washington, Joel Pereira
Burns hasn't really impressed at left-back, but he's still young and we've wait to see him play regularly in central midfield, which is supposedly where Hearts envisaged him playing when he was first signed as a teenager from Glenavon.
Garuccio was hit and miss before sustaining a bad knee injury, White hasn't had much game time due to his own injury niggles, while the same goes for Walker and Washington who sustained long-term setbacks too soon into their careers in Gorgie to make a proper judgement.
A place in this section for Pereira is another example of kindness. He's not made any howlers, but he's yet to look like the definitive answer to the club's goalkeeping struggles.
Ross Callachan, Steven MacLean, Olly Lee, Zdenek Zlamal, Ryan Edwards, Oliver Bozanic, Colin Doyle, Sean Clare, Conor Shaughnessy, Loic Damour, Craig Wighton
Doyle and Zlamal are two senior goalkeepers who are signed beyond the end of this season but neither are viewed as good enough to be No.1. Wonderful.
Clare seemed to play every week under Levein and largely underwhelmed. Most fans agree the player has ability and he's someone who could come good under different tutelage.
Callachan, Edwards and Bozanic were all signed with the view of adding energy to the midfield area. Two of them were moved a year after signing and Bozanic only starts in cases of severe injury. Damour is another such player and, having just signed in August, it may seem a little harsh to put him in 'The Misses' already. But while there's genuine optimism Whelan and Meshino will shine over the course of this season, there's been little evidence to suggest the same about the French midfielder - who is on a four-year deal (!).
Lee's performance deteriorated across the course of 2018/19 (though the club do miss his set-pieces), Shaughnessy never came close to filling Dunne's boots, and MacLean looked a shrewd addition in the first couple of months but he's been asked to carry an injury-depleted strike-force far too often.
The final word in this section shall be saved for Wighton. The Dundee youngster was signed for £250,000 and generally asked to play as a striker, a role he's never looked entirely comfortable playing at the top-flight level. He also had injury troubles at Dens Park which (surprise!) have followed him to Edinburgh. He was signed after a move for Osman Sow collapsed. The ex-Hearts striker looks a shadow of his former self due to his own injury struggles, so he wouldn't have made a good signing - though at least he'd have cost nothing.
THE SPECTACULAR MISSES
Danny Amankwaa, David Vanecek
Both of these were exciting additions at the time. Amankwaa was a speedster - an attribute Hearts were desperate for at the time - who had played in the Champions League, while Vanecek was a free-scoring striker in the Czech top flight. It was therefore a shame that Amankwaa never bothered to get himself fully fit and Vanecek thought ideal preparation for life in the Ladbrokes Premiership was to go on an extended food-and-drink holiday to Thailand.
THE... WAIT, WHO?
The American was signed with a view to the future. He could still come good, though it's hardly a ringing endorsement of his potential that he's barely had a sniff of the first-team during his time with the club. He's currently on loan at Toronto FC II.