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Out of the dugout but in the thick of the action

Craig Levein has found his new role as director of football at Hearts to be far more demanding than any of his previous jobs as a football manager.

Craig Levein is content as a director of football. Picture: SNS
Craig Levein is content as a director of football. Picture: SNS

Having returned to the Edinburgh club in May alongside new majority owner Ann Budge, Levein is effectively responsible for the recruitment of all players and staff, while he will also train the coaches within the club and liaise with the scouting department.

A new coaching team, Robbie Neilson and Stevie Crawford, has been appointed and five new players also signed under his watch. Levein is expected to confirm the arrival of an academy director, an under-20s coach - understood to be Jack Ross - and an under-17s to join club on Monday.

It might have seemed pertinent to acknowledge that the former Scotland has been kept busy in his new post. Levein instead refers to the demands imposed on him as "consuming", and in a way that his time as a coach never was. That applies too to the "madness" of his ill-fated three years in charge of the national team.

He still has aspirations to be a manager, of course, yet Levein has been granted few opportunities to put real thought into it. The closest he has come in the past couple of months is mentoring Neilson in the finer points of contract negotiation.

"Am I working harder than as a manager? A lot harder," said the 49-year-old, formerly in charge of Hearts, Leicester City, Dundee United and Scotland. "Particularly compared to my last job as the head coach of Scotland.

"It is a big change from that. With Scotland you had sporadic moments of madness followed by a period of quietness when I was visiting clubs and watching games. There is a lot more involved in this than the Scotland post.

"Hearts needed 10 new people to come in and that's a lot of staff. There is also the playing side and I have a responsibility to help Robbie Neilson and [chief scout] John Murray scout for players and fill the gaps there. That job alone has been taking up much of my time. I'm not saying I won't ever get back into the dugout again, but this job is a huge one and, to be honest, I have far too much to do to worry about getting back involved in the coaching."

Those words might have rung hollow had they been uttered inside a stadium other than Tynecastle. Levein acknowledged yesterday that he might have resisted an offer to be director of football at any club other than Hearts, or from an owner other than Budge. Indeed, had the invitation come from Vladimir Romanov - whose regime crumbled last season amid "overwhelming negativity" - then Levein would have also elected to steer well clear.

"I hadn't even thought about this role before the conversation with Ann," he said. "And if it had been elsewhere it might have been a different story, but knowing the club as I do, it was quite an easy decision.

"I would not have taken this role at Hearts two years ago. All the negativity that was associated with the previous regime by the end was overwhelming. I took this job [now] because it intrigued me and because of Ann Budge. Ann's moral values were something that I admired and I think that is something that needs to permeate throughout the club."

Levein's philosophy will also be felt acutely throughout Hearts, although he is adamant that Neilson has proven capable of steering the first-team squad on his own. The former Hearts manager will be there to lend a hand, but he does not intend to leave fingerprints on the club's SPFL Championship campaign next season.

"Robbie has been brilliant, he has taken care of just about everything on the playing side of things," Levein added. "He has been very calm, intelligent and his plans make sense, his training programmes make sense. He has been very impressive. Because I have been there for advice, I do feel part of everything without getting directly involved."

He will likely have noted too the efforts of former Hearts colleague John McGlynn this summer, with the Livingston manager adding erstwhile Hearts striker Gary Glen and former Brentford forward Myle Hippolyte to his squad for next season. Championship rivals Raith Rovers have also bolstered their attacking options with the signing of former Celtic winger Ryan Conroy, while the Fife club have taken one-time Rangers striker Archie Campbell on trial.

n Craig Levein was speaking ahead of the Gorgie Club Jazz Evening, in conjunction with the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, taking place in the Gorgie Suite at Tynecastle at 5.30 on July 18, ahead of Hearts v Manchester City

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