Former Hearts defender Alan McLaren believes Austin MacPhee has failed in his audition for the permanent manager`s position at Tynecastle and fears the club `is in a bit of a mess`.
Craig Levein was sacked as Hearts boss and left his role as the club`s director of football on October 31 but the Jambos are yet to appoint his successor, with MacPhee presiding over first-team duties ever since, which included Sunday`s 5-0 loss at Rangers.
Sky Sports News understands the search for a manager was set as a priority over finding a new sporting director, with Hearts owner Ann Budge recently meeting with former Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel, while Steve Cotterill, Neil McCann, Alan Irvine and Stuart McCall have also spoken to the club.
However, McLaren, who spent seven years at Tynecastle before leaving for Rangers in 1994, is surprised Levein is yet to be replaced.
They obviously made the decision that Craig was going to be relieved of his duties and at that point a plan should have been in place, he told Sky Sports News.
Austin has stepped up and it has not worked out for him so far.
Asked if MacPhee was still a viable candidate for the role after two heavy losses to Rangers and a 3-0 defeat to Kilmarnock, McLaren said: If this is the audition, then no.
The manager`s role has to be addressed but by all accounts you have to do the sporting director first and everyone seems to have forgotten about that so the club is in a bit of a mess at the present moment in time.
It`s December, it is festive season - that means every manager is under pressure. The chopping block is out there and I am sure there will be managers sacked pretty soon and will Hearts just bide their time and wait for someone?
Stendel seems to be the favourite but he is taking his time. Is he waiting for another job to come up? Which means he is not really interested. It is tough times for Ann Budge.
MacPhee did see his side beat St Mirren 5-2 last month and is expected to be in charge for Wednesday`s clash at home to Livingston.
I just have to take it day by day like the players and I expect to be in charge on Wednesday unless I am advised otherwise, he told Sky Sports after the Rangers defeat.
I know that Mrs Budge is working with the board on what the next move is and all I have been asked to do just now is to take the team. At Tynecastle I think we got good results and I hope to get another one on Wednesday night.
He added: It is very difficult for any club to come and win [at Ibrox] just now given the great form that they are in.
Hearts haven`t won here since 2012 so I don`t think this game is necessarily something that any manager would be judged by. Aberdeen came here earlier in the season and lost 5-0 as well and when Rangers get their tails up it can become very difficult.
All I can do is prepare the team and I will continue to do that until I am told otherwise and I am sure the board will make the right decision for the long term future of the club.