Hearts fans have made their feelings perfectly clear. Chants of “Levein must go” and “Craig Levein, we want you to go” echoed around Tynecastle Park near the end of the 2-2 draw with Hamilton.
Supporters aim to pressurise owner Ann Budge into acting, although the Edinburgh businesswoman does not intend to change the manager, at least, not at the moment. However, her stance is merely fuelling the fire.
You have to wonder what new Japanese loan signing Ryotaro Meshino made of it all on his debut. Perhaps it is a blessing he has little grasp of English. He showed flashes of ability as a 30th-minute substitute for the injured Euan Henderson but the fanfare surrounding him became a sideshow.
Drawing with Hamilton leaves Hearts joint-bottom of the Premiership and still with just four league wins in 2019. This will be a long international break in Gorgie. Many fans have lost patience and their discontent heightened at the end of a game in which their team twice squandered the lead through weak defending.
Christophe Berra, the Hearts captain, does not expect the abuse to overly faze Levein. “It’s part and parcel of the job, no matter who you are,” he said. “I’m sure Paul Heckingbottom will be getting it at Hibs. It’s what happens when you are not winning games and we’ve been doing it for a while. He’s the manager, he’s in the firing line. That’s what happens when you are in charge of everyone, not just in football. If I’m a manager one day, that’s what happens. He’s used to it and he will just get on with it.
“I think football is a strange game. You do get some ridiculous shouts that you wouldn’t get in the street. Let’s be honest, sadly that’s what football is. The gaffer has been in the game long enough, he’ll know about it. Yeah, some of it is over the top, but he’s got the club’s best interests at heart. First and foremost we are the ones who cross the white lines. We’re not performing and it’s as simple as that. It’s not good enough. We have got ambitions to be a top three or four side and at the moment we are just not finding the recipe to see us do that.”
Berra wasn’t immune to the vitriol either. After Sean Clare’s opening goal put Hearts 1-0 ahead at half-time, a catastrophic equaliser was presented to Hamilton’s George Oakley. The skipper and left-back Aidy White both failed to clear a harmless bouncing ball as Oakley’s persistent chasing unsettled them. The striker darted in behind his opponents to prod a low finish beyond Colin Doyle – who was keeping goal for Hearts with on-loan Joel Pereira injured.
Berra quickly redeemed himself with a powerful header from Andy Irving’s corner to restore the advantage. Yet the hosts seemed determined to undermine themselves. After Doyle parried Blair Alston’s rasping drive, Marios Ogkmpoe thumped the rebound off the crossbar. That warning wasn’t heeded and, on 73 minutes, Oakley restored parity for the second time. His first-time shot after Aaron McGowan cut inside from the right flank was soon nestling in Doyle’s far corner to secure a point for Accies. Indeed, the visitors could easily have won in the closing stages.
“That’s what happens when you have a bad result, defenders will get the stick. We’ll just take it on the chin and move on,” said Berra. “It was a tough game, a physical game. We don’t defend as individuals, we defend as a team. We attack as a team as well. We’ll learn from it and I’m sure we will do some work this week. I’ve played in games like this before and if you win 1-0 nothing is said. We conceded two rubbish goals again. It was nervy, it’s not nice to play in. You just have to be thick-skinned and get on with it.
“Fans pay their money. They have been fans for a long time. I’ve not got a problem with them venting their frustrations, it’s natural. We have to be big enough. The only way we can stop that is to win games and win them in a certain style. At the moment, we’re not doing that. Maybe teams are feeding off the negativity. At the moment we are conceding silly goals, not scoring and giving them chances. So that’s not a good recipe.”
Fore all of Hearts’ failings, iit is vital to credit the Hamilton head coach Brian Rice for building a team on the cheap which is competing well in the top flight. His players exploited the hosts’ weaknesses and seized on the anxiety around Tynecastle. “You’ve got to give respect to Hamilton,” said Berra. “Teams are not just going to sit here. Maybe on paper – man for man – they looked not as good as us but when you are out there and run about, it can make it difficult for us and cover up a lot of sins.
“Maybe we need to take a leaf out of that book. It’s not going to be nice and pretty – there is a dirty side to the game. People’s visions get blurred when there is negativity, it can be about riding the storm sometimes. We need to take the responsibility and the stick.”
Hearts (4-2-3-1): Doyle; Hickey, Halkett, Berra, White (Brandon 65); Whelan, Irving (Naismith 79); Henderson (Meshino 30), Clare, Mulraney; Washington. Unused subs: Zlamal, Ikpeazu, Damour, Dikamona.
Hamilton (4-2-3-1): Fon Williams; McGowan (MacKinnon 78), Fjortoft, Stubbs, Easton; Gogic, Alston; Smith, Collar (Hughes 82, Oakley (Moyo 75); Ogkmpoe. Unused subs: Southwood, Cunningham, Want, Mimnaugh.