Hearts management duo Gary Locke and Billy Brown have been dismissed from their positions by new Hearts owner Ann Budge just over an hour after she walked into the Tynecastle offices. It is also being reported that coach Alan Combe has been shown the door also as Budge wields the axe.
Former Hearts, Dundee United and Scotland manager Craig Levein will be appointed Director of Football at the Edinburgh club, with ‘overall control of football matters’.
Levein will take charge at Hearts for a second time after managing them between 2000 and 2004, as they start life in the Championship following relegation from the Premiership this season.
The 49-year-old had spells as manager of Leicester City and Dundee United, before his tenure as Scotland manager where he failed to secure Scotland’s qualification to the World Cup this summer and criticised for using the infamous 4-6-0 tactic in an away tie against the Czech Republic.
Budge has also wielded the axe on the playing staff by informing keeper Jamie MacDonald that he will not be offered a new deal at the club, along with Mark Ridgers, Ryan Stevenson, Jamie Hamill, Dylan McGowan and Callum Tapping.
Former Hearts defender Robbie Nielson has been named as Head coach of the Tynecastle side.
In a statement published via the club website, owner Ann Budge said: “It was clear from my earliest visits to Tynecastle and my earliest meetings with senior staff that the company, Heart of Midlothian plc, was, in every sense of the word, “broken”.
“There was no overarching strategy for how the business should be run. For far too long, there had been no clear leadership. This coupled with the sole focus on day to day survival had left the club in a sorry and perilous financial state. This led to a fundamental disconnect between the various departments and a mountain of issues to be resolved. Add to this, the under-investment in various parts of the business and the current financial position, and we have a “broken” Hearts. We must all realise that there is no quick fix for these problems.
“One thing is very clear. We have come far too close to losing our very existence and we must never allow this to happen again. We must grasp this opportunity to start afresh; to put in place solid foundations that will ensure we never again risk our 140 years of history.
“We must make changes. We must stop thinking short-term. We must put in place a 3-5-year plan that will see our commercial activities totally re-vamped, such that they once again provide a solid financial under-pinning to our football club; and we must also completely revitalise and re-focus the football side of our club. We have some excellent young players, who have done us proud in the last season. We owe it to them to create an environment that will help them to continue to flourish and develop. This will take time, patience and the continued loyal support of Hearts’ dedicated fan base. We will implement strategies to grow and strengthen the club. We will live within in our means to ensure that the future of the club is never again put in jeopardy.”
Budge added: “Next season cannot simply be about getting back up into the SPFL. Of course, we will be striving for that, but we must take a longer-term view and build for the future. One of the key objectives of the new Board is to put in place a Coaching Education Programme that is second to none in Scottish football. Only by doing so, can we realistically attain the continual year-on-year improvement we are striving for and that will add to the value of the players and the club alike, and help to secure our future.
“This means change on a fairly major scale. Not everyone will agree with all the changes being put in place, but we must address the issues at hand with our heads and not our hearts. We have made these tough decisions after much deliberation and much discussion. All we ask is that you give the new management team time and we will show we can deliver.”
On the dismissal of Locke and Brown and appointment of Levein and Neilson, Budge continued: “We know it may be an unpopular decision with some of you, but the Board has decided that we cannot offer Gary Locke a new contract as Manager, at the end of his current contract. Please believe me when I say this has been an enormously difficult decision to make. We all know the pressures that Gary and his assistant, Billy Brown, have worked under over the last year. They were set an almost impossible task, which they handled with dignity and determination. For that, we are all hugely grateful to both of them. The players and backroom/support staff at Riccarton will be sorry indeed to see them go….as, I know, will a very large section of the Hearts support. They will both leave with our very grateful thanks and best wishes.
“Craig Levein will join the club with immediate effect and will assume total responsibility for everything to do with the playing side of the business. He will be responsible for putting in place an end-to-end strategy for how we are going to implement a youth-driven playing policy within the club.
“John Murray will return to his former role as a chief scout. In the short-term, he will also assist with running the Academy, while we identify who should head this up. For the last year, John has taken on a wide sphere of responsibilities in support of the club he loves and for that we owe him a vote of thanks. We are pleased to be able to offer him the opportunity to go back to what he loves best; namely identifying new, young talent.
“These decisions have been driven by everything that has been said about needing a long-term strategy, built over a 3-5-year planning horizon. For those reasons, the new Board believes that we need to bring in someone with Craig’s experience to guide that vision. With such a strong Director of Football on board, we feel we have to spend our limited resources on strengthening and building the Coaching side of the business, rather than having a 1st team manager. Robbie Neilson will take over as Head Coach for the 1st team and we will bring in a strong support team to work with Robbie in terms of an Assistant Coach and U20s Coach.
“Over the next few days, a number of other changes will be announced as we start the process of rebuilding our great Club. We will have to say good-bye to a number of the fans’ current favourites; we will do our best to secure all our excellent young players; and we will welcome a group of new players, who will help us achieve our vision.
“A number of the decisions we make over the next few days and weeks will be driven by finance. We have to ensure we live within our means. All of the decisions have been taken with a view to ensuring the future stability of our club.”