August 2014 Dinner Meeting
Bill introduced our speakers for the evening, Craig Levein and Robbie Neilson, who received a warm welcome from members and guests.
Craig opened by explaining his philosophy of players playing from a young age and being developed by the Club. This has been difficult over the last few years mainly due to a lack of investment. He wants all young players to be proud to be part of the Club and its future direction. When questioned on how daunting the task ahead was at the start of the season Craig said that a number of discussions had taken place between Ann Budge and himself and latterly with Robbie before announcements were made. Craig himself is under no illusion about the task ahead. There is a long term plan in place to get Hearts back to where they belong i.e. at the forefront of Scottish football.
After taking over the Club the first task was to evaluate players’ contracts as a number of players had come to the end of their time with Hearts. Good new players were brought in with the proviso that they buy into the philosophy of the Club. As a result there is a bond between players and staff.
Concerns were expressed about on field discipline of the players. Robbie explained that discipline of players during games is often blown out of proportion especially when playing at places such as Ibrox in front of a large crowd and maximum TV exposure. Notwithstanding this, players are spoken to about discipline as suspensions could cost us during the season.
When asked to look where he would be in five years’ time Craig said it was difficult to look ahead five days never mind five years! It was never his intention to be A Director of Football but was excited when following discussions with Ann Budge he was asked to run the football side of the Club.
Promotion back to the top tier is important and it is also important that the Club progresses on a sound footing. Whilst promotion is not guaranteed Ann Budge has attempted to allay fears that should promotion not happen this season the Club will still be in a strong position.
Robbie explained that training is now more intense than experienced under previous regimes. All training exercises, moves etc. have a purpose behind them and this was explained to the players at the outset.
The goalkeeper situation was explained with long term view in mind. Neil Alexander will become a goalkeeping coach and together with Scott Gallagher and Jack Hamilton the Club has three excellent goalkeepers.
Delight was expressed at the quality of football currently being played. Robbie explained that each game is planned on a week to week basis and that a number of the goals scored so far this season have come from moves previously worked on in training.
Craig Levein’s view on football is evolution of a Hearts side playing a brand of attractive football. Everyone who joins the Club will be made to feel special. He is also looking to do something different with the Academy to enhance its reputation.
Both speakers emphasised the importance of players continuing to learn and develop. As such training must have a purpose and be geared to winning games.
Craig is looking forward to developing the Academy. In his opinion the younger you start to play the better your prospects. The idea is for the Club to develop its own players for the future. Five or six regional coaching areas will be identified with a system in place to filter out the best young players. The theory behind this is that the younger you get them the more chance you have of keeping them. Craig is following some of the ideas from his time as Manager of Dundee United. He will also ensure that the right people are in place to take this forward.
Developing young players is a priority for the benefit of Hearts in particular and Scottish football in general. If a player comes up to the standard of the English Premiership then that is where they could end up playing. Young players will be encouraged to play football every day and keep practising. However when the time comes they will not be sold cheaply. The situation with Jason Holt is still ongoing with discussions being held with his agent.
On the subject of loan players coming to Tynecastle it was stated that the Club would rather develop players to benefit Hearts and not other Clubs which would be the situation with a loan player.
Robbie explained that losing as a coach is a very different feeling than losing as a player and admitted that his calm exterior did change somewhat after the winning goal at Ibrox recently.
Both speakers said that the Club was a great place to be following the madness of the Romanov years.
There is a great spirit about the place, financial security and a great rapport with the fans who continue to give tremendous support to the players.
In his final remarks Robbie said that his ambition is to win the League outright as the play offs are not ideal.
Following a vote of thanks Craig and Robbie received a standing ovation from those present.
Everyone left very upbeat and positive about the future of the Club