Craig Levein: how the Hearts manager has helped shape Scottish football as he celebrates his 55th birthday

With 300 league appearances for Hearts under his belt, and having championed many of the country’s up-and-coming players and teams, Hearts manager Craig Levein has a lot of proud moments to look back on as he turns 55 this month.

Monday, 21st October 2019, 1:20 pm
Updated Monday, 21st October 2019, 4:52 pm
Craig Levein turns 55 with over 500 games at Hearts as either player or manager. Picture: SNS Group/Bruce White

Born in Dunfermline on 22 October 1964, Levein played in the same high school side as Gordon Durie before getting his first taste of senior football with Cowdenbeath.

He then moved to Hearts, the team he has become most firmly associated with, and where he racked up over 300 appearances, becoming the first player ever to win back-to-back Scottish Premier League Young Player of the Year awards in 1985 and 1986.

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Craig Levein has never been one to bite his tongue. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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He has three cup runners-up medals, placing him second in the Scottish Cup with Hearts both as a player (1985/86) and as manager (2018/19), and in the Scottish League Cup as Dundee United gaffer in 2008, having led Rangers twice in the final, only to lose on penalties.

Similarly, when Dundee United won the Scottish Cup in 2010, it was Levein's assistant Peter Houston in the duggout, Levein himself having left the club the previous December.

If Craig Levein's story is that of a man who never quite seems to get the credit he is due, it's probably fair to say that he has contributed to that. One of the most consistently contentious figures in Scottish football over the last decade, he has a talent for making the sort of decision that sends fan forums into overdrive.

An admitted workaholic, Levein continues trying to plot a way to end the Old Firm's reign. Picture: SNS Group/Ross MacDonald

From the famous 4-6-0 formation he deployed as Scotland manager, to his high-profile fallout with Steven Fletcher, or his decision to field a national team involving 40-year-olds and Third Division midfielders, Levein has never seemed much concerned with how his choices will play in the terraces.

We tend to hear less about the times when these decisions have paid off.

Shortly after their striker-less game, Scotland came close to a historic result against the best team in the world in 2010 with said 40-year-old, David Weir, at the heart of their defence.

This season, a man Levein plucked from obscurity to lead his frontline, Uche Ikpeazu, has continued bowling over defences across the country.

Naturally, some of the best work Levein has done has been far from the spotlight.

At Dundee United he was credited with overhauling the club's youth system, leading to the production of starlets like Ryan Gauld and current Hearts stopper John Souttar.

At Hearts, he is said to have knowledge of every player in the club's academy from the 12-year-olds up.

When he suffered a heart attack last year, Scottish football was forced to reflect on the real legacy of one of its favoured scapegoats.

Going by the accounts of his wife, Carol, and his daughter, Christie, Levein will be too busy obsessing over Hearts' next game to spend much time considering his legacy but, in his own defiant fashion, he has shaped the course of the Scottish game more so than almost anyone else in his 55 years.