In what Hearts manager Craig Levein has described as a rollercoaster season, there is still scope for the Gorgie manager to turn recent criticism on its head as his team gear up for an exciting finish to the campaign.
In an ultimately comfortable 3-0 win over an Inverness Caledonian Thistle side that played on Hearts’ insecurities for as long as they could, the Premiership side quelled the nerves to book a place in the Scottish Cup final for the first time in seven years
“I’m so pleased and proud of the players and how they dealt with the pressure,” said the Gorgie manager, who is on the hunt for his first piece of silverware.
The demands were high, with fans insisting it would have been time for a change of manager if the result had gone the other way. Instead the manager and his players were applauded off the park by a jubilant support.
“I long ago stopped worrying about being criticised, it comes with the job, and the longer you’re in it, the more you realise it’s a part of it,” Levein added. “If we don’t play well, we get criticised. Complaining about that never does any good.
“I needed the supporters to be behind the players more than anything else today but it’s always reciprocal, isn’t it? We needed to do something to create atmosphere and once we scored the first goal, the nervousness disappeared.
“You get judged every week on what’s good and bad. But for the first time in 14 years, we got to two semi-finals this year.
“Now it’s a semi-final and a final and I don’t know how many years it’s been since that happened.
“It’s a very proud moment for me and it will be even prouder when the cup final comes round.
“I have done a lot things in football but to come back and win a cup with Hearts would be the best thing.”
Inverness boss John Robertson knew the importance of keeping the Gorgie fans quiet and said that losing the first goal so early in the match denied them that advantage – but the disallowed goal was what really smarted.
“The offside goal… it’s not offside. Jamie McCart is offside but it’s Jake Mulraney who plays the pass.
“You’re hoping the officials pick that up.
“The [lack of a] little bit of luck you need for a Championship team to beat a Premiership team is what killed us.”