Craig Levein: No reason Hearts can't hold on to top spot

Manager Craig Levein sees no reason why Hearts cannot stay top for the long term after labelling his team as hungry as any he has worked with.

Thursday, 20th September 2018, 2:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th September 2018, 2:26 pm
Craig Levein reckons his team is as hungry as any he has worked with. Picture: SNS Group
Craig Levein reckons his team is as hungry as any he has worked with. Picture: SNS Group

Levein’s side can extend their five-point lead at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership when they host third-placed Livingston on Saturday.

And, after winning 10 games in a row in all competitions, Levein is eyeing a lengthy stay at the summit.

When asked if he could see Hearts being there at Easter, Levein said: “I don’t see why not.

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“We have lost Christophe (Berra), which obviously is a big blow. I would much rather have him available because his experience could be vital. 
“Hopefully we will get him back in December ready for the second half of the season.

“I think we need to keep everybody fit, our best players in particular, and hopefully we can keep churning out results.

“But we have a tough game on Saturday against Livingston, who have won their last three matches. 
“That’s a warning in itself that we can’t afford to go into this match other than completely 100 per cent focused on our jobs.”

Hearts finished sixth last season after Levein took charge several weeks into the campaign, and the manager highlighted two key differences.

“We have a stronger squad, which keeps players on their toes,” said Levein after collecting the manager of the month award for August.

“When they look over at the bench, they know they need to do more or better to stay in the team. That’s a good weapon for a manager to have.

“The other thing is I am certain this group of players is as hungry a team as I’ve worked with, which brings the intensity every day in training and in matches that you need to be successful.

“You look through our squad and see young, hungry, ambitious players and also some senior pros who have been through just about everything football could throw at you.

“Their attitude is just as good as when they first stepped on the training ground as a teenager.

“When I played here, we had those two things, and any good side I have had as a manager over the years has had those things.”

Levein used former Cambridge striker Uche Ikpeazu as the “perfect example” of the hunger he has added to his squad with 18 summer signings.

“Between coming up here at the end of last season and coming back he lost something like six kilos,” the former Scotland boss said.

“He worked his backside off over the summer because he knew if we were going to be pressing from the front, he would have to lead the press.

“And because he knew it was a step up for him, he worked out that he needed to do more over the summer to get himself in a position where he could play every week.”