Craig Levein has been sacked as Hearts manager and will wind down his Tynecastle career without first-team involvement.
The club announced Levein had been relieved of his duties as first-team boss by his fellow directors within 24 hours of the club slumping to 11th place in the Ladbrokes Premiership, level on points with bottom club St Mirren, following a 1-0 defeat by St Johnstone.
The former Scotland boss has stepped down from the club’s board and will not return to his previous role as director of football. A statement stressed he would have no input into the first team or influence over his successor.
Assistant manager Austin MacPhee will take charge as Hearts prepare to face Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-finals on Sunday.
A statement read: “The board of directors of Heart of Midlothian Football Club has today taken the decision to relieve Craig Levein of his first-team managerial duties.
“Craig will not return to his previous director of football role and, that being so, will step down from the board.
“He will, however, see out his contract, which runs until the end of the season, working closely with the executive management team in continuing to develop and improve the structure of the backroom and youth operations within the development.
“We are confident that his knowledge and experience will contribute massively to ensuring that, come the end of the season, he will leave the football department in a healthy and thriving state.
“Effective immediately, Austin MacPhee will be in charge of first-team affairs, on an interim basis, while the board begins the process of recruiting a new manager. The new manager, and indeed the interim manager, will report directly to the chief executive.”
Owner Ann Budge, who doubles up as chairman and chief executive, installed Levein as director of football when she took control in May 2014 in lieu of a fans’ takeover.
The former Dundee United manager was instrumental in the appointment of Robbie Neilson and Ian Cathro as the new regime’s first two head coaches, and returned to the Hearts dugout after the latter was sacked in August 2017, days before the Premiership season kicked off.
Hearts have since finished sixth twice, with a flying start to last season undermined by a string of injuries.
Levein has also been hit by a number of fitness blows this season and a summer recruitment drive to strengthen the depth of the squad has failed to compensate for the loss of players such as Steven Naismith, John Souttar and Jamie Walker. Hearts have a record of one win in 11 league matches.
The announcement came shortly after skipper Christophe Berra had represented the club at a Betfred Cup semi-final media conference at Hampden. The defender admitted their form was making life difficult.
“It’s been tough,” Berra said. “When you are not winning games and you have the expectation of Hearts, it is a big club. We expect better from ourselves.
“It’s not just from the media and fans, we know we are letting ourselves down, letting the club down, letting the fans down. We need to do better and get back to winning games.
“I don’t know what the formula will be but we are trying to search for it and we need to buck up our ideas dramatically.
“The club is about the fans, it’s a big community, it’s about Gorgie Road, it’s a massive community in Edinburgh. That’s what keeps Gorgie Road going, it’s an institution. That’s something we need to respect and at the moment we are not doing it justice.”