Business as usual at Hearts despite fan criticism, says Craig Levein

Hearts manager Craig Levein insists it is business as usual at Riccarton despite criticism from fans as the team prepare for their Ladbrokes Premiership opener at Aberdeen.

Wednesday, 31st July 2019, 6:30 am
Craig Levein

Saturday’s final Betfred Cup group match at East Fife ended acrimonously as supporters vented their dismay at Hearts players and management following the 1-1 draw and subsequent penalty shootout loss.

Levein stressed neither he nor his squad have been distracted from the next task of trying to win at Pittodrie. He outlined positives from the Betfred campaign after the Edinburgh club topped Group A to reach the knockout stage, where they face Motherwell as a non-seed next month.

“Our fans expect to win and so do we. Our objective was to get into the Betfred Cup’s next round and we’ve done that. Now we can focus on the league,” he told the Evening News.

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“From my point of view, it’s just business as usual and we will do our best to win at the weekend.

“There have been no adverse effects. I think sometimes, if there is a bit of discontent, it’s quite good to recognise that and understand supporters expect not just to qualify from the group but to win comfortably.

“To be honest, that was our intention in a lot of the Betfred matches but it obviously didn’t work out that way. The end goal has been achieved because we are into the next stage.

“I’ve watched all four games back and we did a lot of good things in them. They tend to be overshadowed if you aren’t winning 3-0 or 4-0 in these games as there is a definite focus on the negativity.

“It’s my job to make sure we don’t just do that. We also need to recognise that there have also been areas of the team functioning very well. The answer is always somewhere in the middle.”

The manager said he is excited by the start of the new campaign and particularly the challenge of taking on Aberdeen, who finished fourth in last season’s Premiership.

“It’s a great start for us. Away from home against one of the top teams is a high-profile game that keeps everybody on their toes. It should certainly sharpen the senses,” said Levein.

“We’ve had four Betfred Cup games where we’ve been considered favourites to win. We now go into a game where Aberdeen will probably be favourites, so it’s different.”

Hearts hope to have Scotland striker Steven Naismith signed before Sunday. He played just over an hour as a trialist in a closed-door game against St Mirren on Monday.