Hearts interim manager Austin MacPhee has reignited a row with the BBC by launching a scathing attack on pundit Allan Preston in which he questioned his credentials as the broadcaster’s “Hearts expert” and claimed that “people take pot shots at this club far too easily”.
Prior to the Gorgie club’s recent victory over St Mirren, former Hearts player Preston, who is an agent as well as a regular contributor to Radio Scotland’s football coverage, joined Willie Miller and host Richard Gordon in debating MacPhee’s merits as a long-term replacement for Craig Levein.
Following a complaint from the capital club, the BBC has since issued an on-air apology for “the tone and lack of balance” during that discussion.
But, while MacPhee welcomed the apology, he was in no mood to let the matter drop.
Still fuming at the negativity aimed at himself and the club, the Northern Ireland assistant manager branded Preston a liar, as he addressed several bones of contention.
“There were a series of comments, particularly from Allan Preston, which were lies to back up his case. His case was that Hearts are in a mess and I can’t do a job here. He then used four statements which were lies to justify that. The first was that all we are doing is bringing in Manchester City academy
players, when we don’t have a single Manchester
City academy product in our squad. The second was that I brought Craig Wighton back into the team [for the Betfred Cup semi-final] out of nowhere to stick
two fingers up at Craig
Levein. Craig [Levein] actually played Craig Wighton in the last two games Craig Wighton was fully fit, away at Celtic Park and the Scottish Cup final.
“He then got injured against Inverness and had a meniscus operation in London. So for the BBC’s ‘Hearts expert’ to use that is a) disrespectful to Craig Wighton, a young player
who has been working really hard in rehab, and b) totally factually incorrect.
“He also claimed the academy was not working and that the last player we sold was Callum Paterson. Another lie. Marc Leonard was sold to Brighton and Jamie Walker was sold to Wigan.
“Lastly, apparently I was the one who brought Malaury Martin to the club. I had never worked with Malaury Martin, didn’t know Malaury Martin. He has just picked an unsuccessful signing and said ‘he brought him in’. I didn’t. However, there are five Northern Irish internationalists I brought to the club. Arguably £25,000 for Michael Smith could be the best money the club has spent. Kyle Lafferty was top scorer and came close to breaking Robbo’s [John Robertson] 20-goal record. The best returns on investment have been Isma Goncalves, who I worked with at St Mirren, and Lafferty.
“I know the difference between an error – we all make them – and a lie. It’s a malicious mis-statement. Four of them. I was very angry about that.”
Saying the tone of the discussion had been “water off a duck’s back”, he explained that what really bothered him “is them saying nobody is closer to the ground than Allan Preston and him either not doing his job or making things up”.