Craig Levein speaks on Hearts fans’ protests, sacking calls and working in a privileged role
Craig Levein today opened up on the pressures surrounding his job as Hearts manager in a candid Evening News interview.
Emphasising why he must stay calm amid intense scrutiny, Levein said he has experienced fans’ protests before and is determined to keep a sense of perspective.
He took time during the international break to reflect on the situation at Tynecastle Park. Supporters called for his sacking near the end of the last game – a 2-2 home draw with Hamilton Academical which left Hearts joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership after four matches.
Ahead of Saturday’s critical fixture with Motherwell, Levein explained his feelings on the matter and why he is confident his team will recover. At 54, he has encountered this scenario several times previously.
“I’ve been here so many times in the past when the season hasn’t started as well as you want,” he said. “The thing is to look at it in the cold light of day. Don’t get caught up in everything. I didn’t get caught up in the hysteria when we started well last season, either.
“I think it’s important I keep a level head and don’t get too excited. Also, I watch us in training and see the quality of player we have. I’d like Steven Naismith to be 100 per cent fit, and I’d like John Souttar and Peter Haring back fit, but they aren’t. That will happen when it happens.
“The important thing is taking performance levels in training into matches. If I was watching training and thinking every day ‘this is dreadful’, then I’d be worried. But I’m not.”
Others would be shaken by the responsibility of trying to haul a club of Hearts’ stature away from the foot of the league. Four league wins in 2019 is unacceptable and that has prompted some increasingly stinging criticism. Levein does not feel punch-drunk, though.
“Not in the slightest. I’ve been at the club for a long, long time. I’ve seen a lot of things happen. I’ve seen protests – quite a few of them – and I understand the supporters’ frustration at times when things don’t go the way they want. Myself, the coaches and players understand the expectations so we aren’t looking for praise when we aren’t doing well.
“We are all in a situation where we want the same things. We can obviously do something about it. The frustration for the supporters comes from the fact they can only sit in the stadium and shout for their team. Myself, the coaches and players are the ones who can actually do something. For me, that’s a privileged position to be in.
“The expectation levels at Hearts are high. If we draw at home to Hamilton and lose two goals, the supporters are not going to be happy. And I’m not happy. I don’t expect to get praise when we aren’t doing what is expected. I get that and I understand the frustration. I’m not on a different wavelength to the supporters. We should be winning at home against Hamilton, without being disrespectful.”
The experience Levein has garnered also means he is acutely aware that any manager stands or falls by results.
“I don’t think anybody does anything else,” he said. “I try not to get too high or low over what is going on because that doesn’t help your thinking. We are four games into the season, we are in the Betfred Cup quarter-finals. It’s been a difficult start. We’ve been to Aberdeen and Celtic, two difficult places, and probably performed better in those two matches than we did in the other two at home against Ross County and Hamilton. That’s quite unusual.
“Luckily, I’ve been in situations before when things are going poorly and I can’t see a situation that would improve it. This isn’t one of them. I look at the quality of our players in training. Even some of our performances this season have been good. Ultimately, you come back to the same thing: results are what matter.”