BBC issue apology over unfair remarks about Hearts’ Austin MacPhee

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BBC Scotland have taken the unusual step of issuing an on-air apology after a discussion focusing on Austin MacPhee on their Saturday afternoon Sportsound programme was deemed to have been unfair to the Hearts interim manager.

During the debate, broadcast on Radio Scotland last Saturday prior to Hearts’ 5-2 victory over St Mirren, pundit Willie Miller urged MacPhee to “get a life” after the prospective Hearts manager had expressed the opinion that the Tynecastle side ought to be consistently qualifying for the Europa League.

Austin MacPhee is a leading candidate to be appointed as Hearts' permanent manager. Picture: SNS.

Austin MacPhee is a leading candidate to be appointed as Hearts' permanent manager. Picture: SNS.

Former Hearts player Allan Preston also delivered a passionate monologue about why he felt MacPhee was not, in his opinion, equipped to replace Craig Levein, who was sacked at the end of last month. Preston made a number of claims that were viewed as inaccurate inside Tynecastle.

It is understood BBC Scotland received two official complaints, one believed to be from the club, after the discussion was aired.

Long-time programme anchor Richard Gordon read out the apology on air prior to coverage of Scotland’s Euro 2020 qualifying clash against Cyprus on Saturday.

“Before we talk about Hearts’ managerial vacancy we apologise to Austin MacPhee for the tone and lack of balance during last Saturday’s discussion on the search for Craig Levein’s successor,” he said before another debate about the managerial situation at Tynecastle.

Earlier in the week, on Tuesday night’s edition of Sportsound, Michael O’Neill offered a stiff defence of MacPhee and claimed he feared his Northern Ireland assistant would not be given a fair hearing because he is not “in the scene” of Scottish football.

MacPhee joined Hearts as Ian Cathro’s assistant in December 2016. He remained in situ when Levein stepped in as manager after Cathro was sacked.

MacPhee is among the leading contenders to succeed Levein on a full-time basis and is also a candidate for the sporting director vacancy at Tynecastle. A number of current players have spoken out in favour of MacPhee being given the manager’s post, including Michael Smith, Steven Naismith and Jake Mulraney.

MacPhee, who will be in the dugout when Northern Ireland face Germany in a Euro 2020 qualifier in Frankfurt tomorrow evening, will return to take training on Wednesday and is expected to be in charge when Hearts travel to face Kilmarnock this weekend.