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Stephen Robinson remains favourite for Hearts job but Northern Ireland coach Austin MacPhee set for meeting with club owner

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson is still the odds-on favourite to become the next Hearts manager but he may well have a fight on his hands from a fellow Northern Irishman.

Austin MacPhee is in temporary charge after Craig Levein's dismissal last week and was due to meet with owner Ann Budge on Monday.

The Northern Ireland coach oversaw Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Rangers in the League Cup semi-final but is adamant the loss has not harmed his chances of landing his first managerial role since he led amateur side Cupar Hearts to Fife Amateur Cup glory for the first time ever in 2007.

“Everyone is disappointed we lost the semi-final but it doesn’t change anything,” he said.

“The players, myself and the staff must focus on being as well prepared as possible on Saturday against St Mirren to take three points as we haven’t won at Tynecastle in a while. It’s very important to win before the international break.

“I'll meet with Ann tomorrow morning, which was scheduled anyway. We'll obviously talk about the structure in the next week but I would imagine I’ll be in charge against St Mirren.”

MacPhee was appointed as Hearts assistant to Ian Cathro in 2016 and has since held the same position under Jon Daly and Levein.

The hot favourite to take the job is current Motherwell coach Robinson, although his current club's CEO Alan Burrows said on Saturday that there had been no approach made.

When asked about potential interest, Robinson replied: "That's a hypothetical question and it's disrespectful to everyone at Motherwell. There has been no contact and I'm just getting on with my job. That's what I'm paid to do."

It's because of his success at Fir Park that the links have begun.

The 44-year-old has been in charge at The Well since March 2017 and in his first full season in charge guided the club to both the League Cup and Scottish Cup finals, beaten 2-0 by Brendan Rodgers' all-conquering Celtic in both.

His two full campaigns have brought seventh and eighth place finishes in the Scottish Premiership and the start to the current campaign promises more, with Motherwell in third after 12 matches.

"Don't go Robbo," said Well's Allan Campbell after scoring the winner against Livingston on Saturday.

“He’s not got the biggest budget in the league but he’s doing a great job, helped by his staff.

“I can understand why other clubs are looking at him and the job he’s doing here."

Second favourite in the race is former Sunderland coach Jack Ross, with Roy Keane, David Moyes and former Glentoran forward Andy Kirk also among the frontrunners.

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