Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Our clean-sheet record is the best in Europe this season, says Hearts assistant Austin MacPhee

Hearts manager Craig Levein with Austin McPhee (SNS Group / Alan Harvey)
Hearts manager Craig Levein with Austin McPhee (SNS Group / Alan Harvey)

AUSTIN MacPhee has praised Craig Levein for turning around the fortunes of Hearts and putting in place plans that will see the club prosper and improve for years to come.

Levein removed himself four months ago from his role as Director of Football to take over as Head Coach after Ian Cathro was sacked.

Results and performances have improved. Youngsters from the club’s successful Academy have given opportunities.

The Jambos defeated Cetic 4-0 to end the Parkhead side’s 60 game unbeaten run. Harry Cochrane, just 16, scored in that game.

They have also clocked up six clean sheets on the trot, the best defensive run in the 143-year history of the club.

It’s also the best record for the whole of Europe this season.

They are looking to make it seven without conceding this afternoon in the crucial William Hill Scottish Cup clash at home to Hibs.

Assistant boss MacPhee reckons that record gives Hearts a psychological edge for this game and knows the effort and graft at all levels that has been put in by Levein to put down foundations for success.

The highly-respected coach told The Sunday Post: “We had a very productive week in Spain during the winter break. To be together with the players morning, noon and night was beneficial.

“We learned a lot about the boys. We played three games – two against Bundesliga team and the other against Vitesse Arnhem. In all three games we finished the match with at least seven of our academy players on the park.

“We have played nine teenagers in the first team this season and it shows we have a pathway from our academy. Craig isn’t just selecting these boys to tick off a box, he is doing it because they have earned a chance.

“You have to remember that after the Vladimir Romanov era, the Heart of Midlothian Academy was completely broken.

“Ann Budge came in and appointed Craig. One of the main things he wanted to put right was the youth structure. We are doing that, for sure. During Ann’s era she has tripled the spend on the academy. That will prove to be solid investment year on year.

“I think one of the reasons Craig took the manager’s job was because he believed in our academy and felt there was quality there to feed into the first team squad.

“He is willing to give the youngsters a chance. And, also, he knows them all well. He sees them every week. Craig will sit in the dugout to watch a youth team game in the morning, sometimes as young as Under-12s, and then head to Tynecastle Park to take charge of the first team.

“He is not only full of encouragement to everyone involved at the academy, he is also very supportive of his staff and wants myself, Liam Fox and Jon Daly to succeed.

“He has been criticised in the media, particularly towards the end of his Scotland career, but he can cope with it. He is thick skinned. He is also great company and very funny.

“But the serious side is there and he is very professional. Listen, he is a tried and tested manager. He is very clear in his ideas.

“He wanted us to be solid at the back and hard to score against. We’ve now had six clean sheets in a row and we are hard to beat. Indeed, our clean sheet record is the best in Europe this season. Juventus have the second best record, Barcelona are eighth.

“It’s something we are all very proud of, and I can see that determination in goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin and the defence not to concede. Christophe Berra is also really driving it forward. I think he has been in fine form.

“Our last competitive match was away to Aberdeen and we could see the Aberdeen players getting frustrated as the game wore on because they hasn’t scored.

“I think the fact they knew we were in a good bit of form defensively that it was on their minds. I think Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty could see it was just not going to be their day.

“We hope to continue that against Hibs. They have been to Tynecastle and played a certain way the last couple of times.

“The longer the games goes on on Sunday and Hibs haven’t scored, it could come into their thinking that they are just not going to pierce us open.”

Neil Lennon’s men defeated Hearts last season in this competition. The first game was a draw at Tynecastle. Hibs won the replay comfortably.

That night, Cathro’s team contained eight foreigners and three UK players and accusations followed that the spine of the team didn’t know enough of what was required to win a derby match.

Today, it’s likely to be many more Brits in the starting line-up.

MacPhee said: “They knocked us out of the Scottish Cup last season. At Tynecastle we didn’t really push to win with 30 minutes to go. We didn’t really make offensive substitutions. We should have been wanting to do it more on our own park rather than going into a replay.

“This time, we’re well aware it’s a Cup tie and you have to take ownership of the game, show the required level of responsibility and be more offensive in the right moments of the game.”

MacPhee has also been encouraged by the signing of Steven Naismith.

He said: “Steven is on record as saying Craig is the main reason he has joined us.

“Steven will add extra quality at the top end of the pitch. He is a proper player and will be a real asset.

“I can see already in the one or two training sessions the level of his play, his footballing brain and his leadership qualities. He was taking ownership of stuff on the park and that’s great to see.”

The last time Hearts won the Cup was in 2012 when they defeated Hibs 5-1 in the Final. Paulo Sergio was the manager and the Portuguese will be in the stands today to take in the action.

MacPhee feels it’s time for the Edinburgh club to deliver again in this competition. Being at Hampden Park on May 19th for the Final should be a target.

He said: “The Scottish Cup is very, very special. I was lucky enough to be on the coaching staff at St Mirren when we won the League Cup a few years ago. That was a wonderful feeling, to see the players and supporters so happy makes it all worthwhile.

“Being back at Hampden this year shouldn’t be beyond us. Why not? Let’s all believe this be our year.

“But, of course, we have a really tough game to overcome. We will not underestimate Hibs, that’s for sure.

“However, Craig has a fantastic record against Hibs and we want that to continue.

“Personally, I’ve been involved with Hearts in four Edinburgh derby games and we’ve lost two and drawn two. It’s time for me to sample a victory.

“When I speak to Hearts supporters, they always finish the conversation with: ‘make sure you beat the Hibs’. It’s time to deliver.”