Craig Levein says SFA wrong to reject Hearts’ Kyle Lafferty appeal

Hearts' Kyle Lafferty was sent off for this challenge on Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie. Pic: SNS
Hearts' Kyle Lafferty was sent off for this challenge on Aberdeen's Graeme Shinnie. Pic: SNS
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Hearts manager Craig Levein insists the Scottish Football Association are wrong to reject Kyle Lafferty’s red card appeal, which leaves the striker banned for the Scottish Cup tie with Hibs at Tynecastle. Levein is keen to sign a striker this month and that process will now be accelerated after confirmation of Lafferty’s ban.

The SFA arranged a fast track disciplinary tribunal at Hampden Park yesterday but, with the player in attendance, decided to uphold his red card against Aberdeen last month. That means Lafferty is suspended for Hearts’ Scottish Cup fourth round match against Edinburgh rivals Hibs on Sunday week. He will also sit out the league match at Hamilton three days later as a result of his two-game ban.

Referee John Beaton dismissed the 30-year-old for serious foul play following a late challenge on Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie. Hearts appealed hoping to at least see the red card downgraded to a yellow, but they were unsuccessful.

“Looking at it in isolation, I thought it would go our way. I’m disappointed because I think it’s unfair,” commented Levein today. “I still think it’s harsh looking at other people who have won appeals. It’s done now, there’s nothing we can do. It was a process that was very heavily weighted one way. Nobody will be more disappointed than Kyle. It’s him I feel sorry for because he’ll miss an important match.”

The manager stressed Hearts can cope without their top goalscorer. He cited Esmael Goncalves and Cole Stockton as able replacements if another striker does not arrive in time to face Hibs.

“Isma has been involved recently and I thought he did well up at Aberdeen. He had a couple of scoring opportunities but I thought his general play was very good. Cole has done well when he’s played, so we will be fine,” said Levein.

Speaking for the first time since Jamie Walker’s transfer to Wigan, Levein admitted England is a good move for the winger’s career following Rangers’ pursuit of him last summer.

“I think Jamie deserves this opportunity. He’s done enough up here for us. He’s been here since he was ten so I’m pleased he’s got a move. It’s a chance to go and test himself down in England. I’d have been disappointed if he stayed up here. He can always do that later on in his career by coming back to another club.

“Every football player has ambition and Jamie wants to test himself at the highest level possible. I think there’s an improvement in him this season. People might say: ‘He scored more goals last season and the season before.’ He has had injuries and things but his fitness and general application have been good. He’s much more conscientious and diligent in his defensive work.

“He’s getting to the stage where he’s starting to become serious about his football. Once that happens, he’s going to be a really good player. When kids come in, it’s all new to them. Once they’ve been in for a wee while, their career can just drift and they just go with whatever is happening to them.

“Then there comes the point where the penny drops. They think: ‘Wait a minute. I’ve got a family, I’m 23 and I need to start thinking about things.’ At some point they say: ‘This isn’t lasting forever, I better get myself focused.’ I think Jamie is just at that point.”

Levein also confirmed Hearts’ interest in the Wigan midfielder Jack Byrne has ended, as revealed by the Evening News last week. “That’s dead. It just dragged on so we’re looking elsewhere,” he said.