Austin MacPhee looking to steady the ship at Hearts after Craig Levein’s sacking

Austin MacPhee aims to make the Hearts board take their time in recruiting Craig Levein’s successor by extending his winning run as interim manager.

MacPhee spoke of his “shock” at Levein’s sacking on Thursday after owner Ann Budge took action following Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat by St Johnstone, which left Hearts level with Ladbrokes Premiership bottom club St Mirren.

The 40-year-old now finds himself in charge as Hearts take on Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-final on Sunday but he insists he has no trepidation having led the team to two wins when Levein fell ill last year.

When asked if he wanted the manager’s job, MacPhee said: “I don’t think now is the time to talk about that.

“I only got the call late (Thursday) afternoon from Ann and spoke to Craig on the phone, and then spoke to Craig this morning in person.

“Within that period of time I have had to decide how I want the team to play on Sunday. I just want to give Hearts the best chance of putting in a performance that can win the game. Those things are for other people to decide and for another time.”

When pressed on his managerial ambitions, he added: “It’s not the first time I have been interim manager. I had two games when Craig had a heart problem, and I had a whole week of training when Craig wasn’t here.

“I leant on the senior players a lot, I have a very positive relationship with Steven (Naismith), Glenn Whelan, Christophe and a lot of players who have come to the club that I am responsible for.

“When the manager was absent, we had a really positive performance and beat St Mirren 4-1 and the following week we won against Motherwell.

“My previous experiences have ended well, if they hadn’t Craig would have been the first to tell me about it, and I hope Sunday ends well as well. It gives you confidence that you can potentially do the job.

“I am just going to do what I have done before which has led to the team winning when I have been interim manager.

“So I don’t sit here with trepidation because the only experience I have had when I stood in is the team wins.

“I hope that’s true again on Sunday and if I can achieve that on Sunday, and if I can achieve that next Saturday, naturally our recruitment process might take longer because people will keep calm that I can drive the car long enough that it doesn’t crash.”

MacPhee revealed Levein had addressed the squad on Friday morning.

When asked how he was, MacPhee said: “Like he always is, calm. He thanked the players for their efforts and for the ones who have shown trust in him to come to Hearts when they have had options to go elsewhere.

“He spoke to the staff and spoke to me. Everybody feels, and should feel, some guilt about that but we have to very quickly move forward and use this as a positive reaction and make sure we have the team in the right place come three o’clock on Sunday.”

Levein is staying on until the end of the season to continue developing the club’s youth set-up but not in his previous role as director of football with Hearts’ hierarchy stressing he would have no first-team involvement.

MacPhee said: “I don’t know how the new infrastructure of the club will be. Ann is doing a review of everything in terms of the role of the director of football, whether there will be one, the head coach and everything else.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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