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Austin MacPhee expects to be Hearts boss for Ibrox visit

Stand-in boss is hopeful he remains in contention to become Hearts manager permanently.

Caretaker manager Austin MacPhee expects to still be in charge of Hearts for their trip to Ibrox on Sunday.

The Tynecastle club are in the fifth week of their search for a permanent successor to Craig Levein following his sacking.

Former Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel has held talks about taking on the role but an appointment for Levein’s replacement does not appear imminent.

Owner Ann Budge is also seeking a sporting director, with her initial expectation that she would fill that role first.

MacPhee said he is being kept in the loop with regards to the vacancies and said he was hopeful he remains in the running for both posts.

When asked about the Stendel reports, MacPhee said: “All I can say is that Ann Budge is very honest with me about everything that is going on. I am up to speed with what options she is considering.

“I speak to Ann every day and I think [on] Sunday I will certainly be in charge of the team.”

Hearts sacked Levein before Hibs followed suit with Paul Heckingbottom, but their Edinburgh rivals moved to appoint Jack Ross after he had been linked with a return to Tynecastle.

A 3-0 defeat at Kilmarnock last week sparked pressure from fans to speed up the recruitment process but MacPhee, who is set to take charge of his fourth match when they face Rangers, said it’s important the club take their time to make the correct calls.

“I think for everybody at the club, the most important thing is that the right decision is made,” he added.

“The interim period is naturally one that people have some uncertainty. All that we can do is stick together and make sure that we prepare the team as well as we can for each game, and make sure that we communicate with the players.

“I have strong relationships with the players, I think most assistants do, a lot of time that is your job.

“I have just tried to carry that on in the interim manager role, like I did before when I took the team when Craig was unwell.

“I understand there are a lot of games coming up in a short period of time, there are a lot of points available between now and January. I am sure there will be clarity at a point but I still believe the most important thing is the right decision is made, not a quick decision.

“As I said before the St Mirren game, when we got a good performance and result, is that results help everybody have a little bit more time and that’s my sole focus for Sunday.”

MacPhee, who revealed Craig Halkett is back in contention after recovering from a knee injury, continued: “I still speak to Ann regularly on it and I think the main thing is that everybody takes time to make the decision that they believe is the correct one for the next stage of the club.

“They had a plan for the five years coming from administration to now and I think there will be a plan for the next five years and whoever gets the roles that are available will be tasked with taking it forward in that time.”

When asked if he was still in contention for either or both of the roles, MacPhee said: “I haven’t spoken specifically about that with Ann.

“All I can do is work as hard as I can just now in this role and she will make the decision where she sees my skills fitting into the new structure that she is developing. That’s my focus.

“I have said from day one that Hearts is a fantastic club, it’s one I want to help going forward and Mrs Budge will make the decision as to where, if anywhere, I best fit in.

“I am preparing the team well for Sunday and the team putting on a good performance at Ibrox is obviously a key task I have been asked to do.”

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