Hearts boss Craig Levein was wasting his time with referee chief, says ex-Hibs boss

Former Hibs manager John Hughes has backed Hearts boss Craig Levein's decision to no longer seek explanations from the SFA's head of refereeing, John Fleming.

Wednesday, 5th December 2018, 11:34 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th December 2018, 11:40 am

Speaking ahead of the team’s visit to St Johnstone, Levein said he was “finished” with referee chief John Fleming.

Assistant manager Austin MacPhee had spoken with him prior to Hearts’ 2-1 defeat to Rangers at Tynecastle on Sunday with the management team unhappy with a number of calls made when the side were defending free-kicks.

Sign up to our Hearts newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Hearts manager Craig Levein will no longer seek clarification from referee chief John Fleming. Picture: SNS/Ross Parker

This season Hearts had taken an aggressive defensive line when defending set-pieces but Fleming’s advice was defend on the 18-yard line to make it easier for the linesmen.

Hearts did that on Sunday but ultimately lost due to an offside goal by Alfredo Morelos from that exact situation. Something which didn’t escape Levein after the defeat.

He said: “Austin (MacPhee) phoned (Scottish Football Association head of referees) John Fleming a while ago after we had three goals against us that were offside because the linesman made mistakes.

“John Fleming suggested that we held the line on the 18-yard line to make it easier for his officials. So we did that today and they still f*****g got it wrong!”

John Hughes has backed Craig Levein to no longer speak to Fleming. Picture: SNS/Ross MacDonald

Former Celtic and Hibs player Hughes shared his experience of dealing with Fleming and was relieved to know that Levein would no longer be phoning to ask for clarification.

“The experience Craig has got in being so long in the game it’s took him this long to work out John Fleming”, he told Sportsound. “You’re wasting your time. You are wasting your time talking to him. He protects his referees, rightly so, and it’s a closed shop so you’re wasting your time.

“I gave up on him years and years ago.”

He added: “All he does is crucify you.”

Ex-Ross County assistant manager Billy Dodds also explained the difficulties with dealing with the SFA’s head of refereeing.

“I’ve spoken to John a few times. I find him approachable, he is there to protect his referees. He’ll give you a wee bit but he’ll put a slant on it.

“Sometimes football is straight forward for me and it can get, at times, too technical about decisions and that’s where the problem lies. John will take you there.

“Do I think he protects his referees? Yes, but that’s his job. Sometimes I’d come off (the phone) and thought, a wee bit like Craig Levein, I wish I hadn’t called John.”

Join our Facebook group Our Edinburgh to share images and news from and around the Capital