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Ann Budge sets sights high as she looks for Craig Levein’s successor at Hearts

Hearts owner Ann Budge is in the hunt for a “very experienced and high-profile manager”.

Roy Keane and David Moyes are among the favourites to replace the sacked Craig Levein behind the early front-runner, Motherwell’s Stephen Robinson.

Hearts have moved away from appointing up-and-coming head coaches after Robbie Neilson’s successful debut stint was followed by a failed Ian Cathro experiment.

And Budge will not shy away from appointing a big name.

While pointing out that it was the media who were linking Keane and Moyes to the role, she feels it is realistic that someone of that ilk could take over.

“I don’t see why not,” she told a media conference. “Look at some of the other managers we have in Scotland at the moment. A few years ago we would have been questioning whether that was possible.

“Hearts is no different, we want to be competing with the top clubs in Scotland and to do that I want to ensure we get a very experienced and high-profile manager.”

Robinson is believed to be high on Hearts’ list of potential targets but Budge denied they had their sights set on anyone in particular with caretaker boss Austin MacPhee set to continue in his role for Saturday’s visit of St Mirren.

“I’m in no hurry, it’s not that we have someone in our sights despite what some of the media have been saying,” Budge said.

“I want to go through the process rigorously and thoroughly and explore a lot of avenues. So the net will be cast quite wide.”

MacPhee has never been a manager and the 40-year-old started his temporary role with a 3-0 defeat by Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-finals.

But Budge said: “He is definitely a contender. He is the interim manager and did it very well when he did it before.

“He has a lot of experience, not of managing first teams but still a lot of experience, so I’m not ruling Austin out. He knows what he has to do to strengthen his case.”

Budge will seek advice from outside her boardroom.

“We have our own nominations group but we will be taking advice from football experts,” she said.

“Whether that is a formal appointment of a consultant, or whether that is leveraging all the contacts we now have, because I have had a number of offers to help.

“One thing I will make clear is that Craig is not part of that process.”

Budge will also appoint a sporting director, a different role to the director of football position Levein formerly occupied.

“Doing everything associated with running the football operation is too much for one person, for a club of a certain size and the size we want to be,” she said.

“It’s important we have a manager who has the time to focus on the first team and really not worry about all the other things. And I want an equally senior appointment.

“The sporting director to me is a crucial appointment and I would like to get that made soon. We have been looking at that anyway.

“Any manager who comes in has to come in knowing there will be a sporting director, possibly in place or certainly to be appointed.”