Hearts: Former manager Craig Levein regrets his dual role

Hearts fans held protests against Levein outside Tynecastle in the final weeks of his tenure

Craig Levein admits he “had bitten off more than I could chew” at Hearts by not giving up his director of football post when he became manager.

The former Scotland boss began his second spell in the Tynecastle dugout after Ian Cathro’s exit in August 2017.

Levein was removed from both roles last October with Hearts struggling, but is convinced he would have kept the club in the Scottish Premiership.

“It proved to be extremely difficult for me,” he said.

“Particularly when we had problems on the field. Now, looking back on it, it’s easy to say that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew trying to do both jobs at the same time.

“Going back, would I have taken the job again? I probably would, but I would have given up my director of football role.

“I found that when things were difficult, it was extremely difficult to do both jobs.”

Hearts had one league win and were only above bottom spot on goal difference when Levein was dismissed last season.

He cites injuries to key players including Steven Naismith, John Souttar and Uche Ikpeazu for the downward spiral neither he nor successor Daniel Stendel were able to halt as the club slipped to relegation.

Levein left Tynecastle last week after seeing out the remainder of his contract behind the scenes.

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Scottish Football podcast, he added: “I can’t put my hands up and say that I’m not responsible in any way.

“The results weren’t good enough, I don’t make any claims that they were, but I do believe the unprecedented run of injury problems was the problem.

“I do feel that if I had stayed in place then we wouldn’t be in the league position we are in, because we had good players coming back from injury.”

Questioned on his recruitment record, Levein said: “At the start of the season, everybody were saying it was the best squad Hearts had in a long time.

“We had a situation where a lot of the time the pressure was falling on the shoulders of players who didn’t have that experience or the character to be able to deal with it.”

The final weeks of his tenure was marked by vociferous criticism and protests from Hearts fans, but Levein bears no grudges and offered an apology to supporters for the club’s plight.

“I have no problem with people inside the stadium voicing their anger,” he said. “I’m not going to complain about anything any Hearts supporter has said to me. I’ve had hundreds of goodwill messages from Hearts supporters as well.

“I’m extremely sorry for the position Hearts supporters find themselves in just now, but I can say I did my best. I will look back on my time fondly, with some fantastic memories.

“And I think in time the benefits of the performance school we put in place at Balerno, we will see great players come out of that which will help Hearts going forward. Maybe then some of the Hearts supporters might forgive me.”

BBC News