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Under-pressure Levein gets Budge backing

Hearts owner Ann Budge insists she has not spoken to other managers about replacing Craig Levein at Tynecastle and has given the 54-year-old her backing ahead of Sunday’s derby clash with Hibernian.

Pressure has been mounting on Levein during a winless start to the season which has left Hearts bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership table after five games.

However, Budge dismissed speculation regarding possible successors to Levein in a statement on the club’s official website.

She said: “I can confirm that I have spoken to no other manager about the possibility of joining Hearts and names being publicly linked to the club are pure speculation.

“I have, however, fielded numerous, unsolicited phone calls from agents… who are rarely shy of trying to further their cause by leaking ‘made up’ stories to the media.

“In short, our board remains behind the manager, his coaching staff and his team – not because he is ‘untouchable’, not because he is ‘all-powerful’, and not because we are ‘weak’, as has been suggested.

“We remain behind him because we believe in the plan we have jointly put together.

“We will continue to scrutinise our on-field performances and should we feel our plans are going astray and our approach needs to be adjusted, we will respond accordingly.”

Budge admitted she shares the frustrations of Hearts supporters but believes the lengthy injury list Levein has had to deal with has been a factor in their slow start to the season.

She added: “Like every other Hearts supporter at the moment, I am hugely frustrated with the results, or indeed lack of them, from the first five Premiership fixtures.

“There is no way any of us set out at the start of the season believing we would be languishing in the bottom half of the table at this point, let alone in bottom position.

“Clearly, what we wanted to do was to have the same kind of start as we had last season, without the catalogue of injuries that then befell us. However, as we all know, that has not happened. So what do we do about it?

“What we do not do is overreact, throw all of our plans out of the window and start again.

“We all know that while some of the new signings have been settling in and while we are still carrying injuries to a number of our key players, our performances in the early part of the season have been hugely disappointing.

“However, the board firmly believes it is too early to be panicking and tearing up our plans.”

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