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Joe Savage and the only Hearts question mark as former player identified as potential replacement

Ryan Stevenson reckons there is only one question mark that can be raised about Joe Savage's tenure at Hearts - and even that comes with a huge caveat.

There was shock news last week when it emerged the Tynecastle sporting director intended to move on and had informed club chiefs of his decision. It brings to an end three-and-a-half years at the club after the former Preston chief scout was brought in when they were still in the Championship.

Savage has had a number of success stories in the transfer market - such as Lawrence Shankland, Frankie Kent and Beni Baningime. And former Jambo favourite Stevenson has lavished praise on his efforts, reckoning there have been far more hits than misses with recruitment.

The one grey are is a lack of significant player sales bringing in big cash for the club. But Stevo admits it's hard to be too critical over that.

Speaking in the Daily Record, he said: "Who do you recruit to replace the recruiter? That’s suddenly the big question for Hearts fans heading into the summer transfer window after Joe Savage’s announcement he was stepping down as sporting director.

"Okay Savage’s role was wider than just signing players but that was the main responsibility on which he will be judged. And when you look across his three-and-a-half years in office at Tynecastle you have to say he did a superb job. As a rule of thumb I reckon if you get 60 per cent of signings right then you’re doing remarkably well.

"Savage must be well above that percentage though. Both Robbie Neilson and Steven Naismith spoke about their strong relationship with Joe and their trust in the recruitment system. That speaks volumes. There’s been top bracket signings. Lawrence Shankland stands out above all others for obvious reasons. As good a signing as Hearts will make.

"Honestly I think I could count on one hand the number of signings in Savage’s time that you could say outright haven’t worked. And from 40-odd additions that’s a hell of a good strike rate.

"The one question on the transfer front that could be held against Hearts over recent years could be the lack of a big money sale. But it’s a hard one. If someone’s not willing to pay what you think a player is worth then you simply aren’t going to sell. John Souttar and Shankland both come into that bracket. Teams will try to take the p*** with their offers."

In terms of looking for a replacement, Stevenson has mentioned two club heroes who could be in with a shout. One being his former teammate Andy Webster, the other goalscoring legend John Robertson.

"Some punters have mentioned John Robertson coming back," he added. "I love Robbo, every Jambo does. He was a great coach. It’s good to have people like him round about the club.

"Andy Webster is there in charge of the academy. Is it something he’d be interested in? Only Andy would know. I’m not entirely sure about the criteria needed to be a good sporting director.

"The only thing I will say is I’d love to see someone promoted from within who has a connection with the club and wants the best for them. Someone like Webby? I'd be asking the question."