Hearts owner Ann Budge says the board remains behind manager Craig Levein and refuted suggestions the club have lined up a replacement.

Fans protested outside Tynecastle after Saturday’s defeat by Motherwell, with some calling for Levein to be sacked.

The club sit bottom of the Premiership, having won none of their opening five games and drawing twice.

“In short, our Board remains behind the Manager, his coaching staff and his team,” Budge said in a statement.

“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.”

Budge says she shares Hearts fans’ frustrations at the winless start to the Premiership campaign, but urged patience to allow what she called “arguably the strongest squad” they have had in her six seasons at the helm to come good.

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

“I am frequently asked in what way running a football club is different from running a ‘normal’ business. While there are many differences, I firmly believe that one thing is the same, no matter what business you are running,” Budge added.

The 3-2 loss to Motherwell on Saturday at Tynecastle sparked angry protests, with fans calling for change and some holding a banner asking for Levein to be removed from his post.

Budge was clear that any names linked with the Hearts job was “pure speculation” as she had not spoken to any other managers about joining the club.

She also hit out at suggestions that Levein’s position on the club’s board means the 54-year-old can exert influence over his own future.

“Certain reporters and pundits have made numerous ill-informed ‘statements’ regarding how things operate at the club, how decisions are made and who is involved in the decision-making process.

“I would simply point out that, unlike other managers, who may get called in front of the board if/when things are going wrong, Craig has to present to the full board at every board meeting on how things are going against [the] plan across all areas of the football operation, including highlighting issues and discussing courses of action.”

Hearts next match is away to Edinburgh rivals Hibernian on Sunday, followed by a League Cup quarter-final clash with Aberdeen at Tynecastle on Wednesday.



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