Hearts academy have more technical ability than those we can sign - Craig Levein

Hearts manager Craig Levein and Harry Cochrane
Harry Cochrane (right) is one of the teenagers playing in Hearts' first-team squad
Scottish Cup final: Hearts v Celtic
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Saturday, 25 May Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One Scotland; listen on BBC Radio Scotland; text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Craig Levein says it "excites me most" that Hearts' academy players have more "technical ability" than those they could afford to sign from elsewhere.

He admits there is "a perception" that his side, who face Celtic in Saturday's Scottish Cup final, have a "one dimensional" style of play.

"But the stats don't say that," manager Levein told BBC Scotland.

"The way we play will change in time as we get more and more of our younger players through from the academy."

Injuries forced Levein to give a number of teenagers their debuts last season and, although he has had a more experienced squad at his disposal this campaign, he has at some point played 13 players aged 21 or under.

The manager admits "it might take a couple of years" but expects more academy graduates to influence his tactics because "they play a different way from what we do in the first team".

"I know how good the young players are and how much they can help the team," Levein said.

"You can't afford to go out and buy players or sign players with the quality of technical ability that they've got, so it will be a way for us to improve very quickly in the next couple of years."

Levein admits that Celtic head to Hampden strong favourites to complete a third successive domestic clean sweep of trophies having already won the Premiership title and League Cup.

"We finished in sixth, which is not where we want to be," he said. "Obviously the beginning of the season was really exciting, we were on from.

"The second part of the season hasn't been quite so good, but we've had enough decent performances in those months for me to think we've got one more in us."

Levein has had a number of spats on the touchline and in the media with interim Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who a few months ago was in charge of Edinburgh neighbours Hibernian.

"A lot of the stuff that goes on is just banter," the Hearts boss said. "I get on with Neil. He is somebody I've got a lot of time for, but obviously we are at opposite dugouts on Saturday and there can't be any time for any friendships when the match is going on."

Levein says he has tried "to moderate everything" after suffering a heart scare in August.

"At times, you're like the hamster in the wheel because the season lasts for such a long time - there is no respite," he said. "On top of that, I was trying to do two or three other things as well.

"It has taught me that I just need to focus on the things that are important."

See more of Rob Maclean's Sportscene interview with Craig Levein on Friday at 19:00 BST, BBC Scotland.

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