Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom ‘lacked class’, says Kilmarnock’s Alex Bruce
Paul Heckingbottom has been accused of “lacking class” in an extraordinary spat with Alex Bruce after the Kilmarnock defender earned his side a game-winning penalty on Saturday.
The Hibs boss directed a jibe of “diver” at his one-time team-mate as he headed for his post-match press conference at Rugby Park, having seen his side beaten by a single goal for the second weekend in succession.
Whether Heckingbottom’s comment was made tongue in cheek – even Killie manager Steve Clarke admitting the award of a spot-kick by referee Andrew Dallas as Bruce grappled with Hibs skipper David Gray was soft – it clearly angered the 34-year-old.
Incensed that the comment had been made in public – Bruce was chatting to reporters about the victory which keeps Kilmarnock in pole position for third place and a Europa League spot – followed Heckingbottom into the press room to question what he had said. Afterwards Bruce, who was briefly played with Heckingbottom at Sheffield Wednesday, said: “I think that lacked class. He’s an old team-mate of mine and I expected better of him.
“If he had something to say to me then he should have done it in private. I’m certainly not a diver – that’s for sure. The referee actually said to Gray at the previous corner to keep his hands off me. It was blatant at the previous corner. It was in my mind that if he is going to put his hands on me again, then he will give the decision. He had his hands on me again and the referee gave the penalty. It was a big goal and an important goal for us as it turned out.”
Heckingbottom later conceded that he felt Bruce hadn’t dived but, while concurring with Clarke’s assessment that it had been a soft award, he put Hibs’ defeat down to his side simply being “rubbish” on the day.
He said: “We [Bruce and Heckingbottom] go back as we played with each other. We know each other well. I know him and he knows me. You can interpret it how you want. I don’t think he has dived, you can see that. You can see it’s soft. Alex felt contact, went down and the ref has seen it. The ref might have been watching from something before that incident, I don’t know.
“But we won’t be reliant on referees. It would have been harsh on Killie if they’d not won. When it’s decisions like that it’s down to interpretation. You want consistency, it could go either way. It’s not a penalty although we got what we deserved.”