Dugout spats are not personal, says Hearts boss Craig Levein

Reinvention is the key to longevity in the managerial game, according to Craig Levein, and the Hearts boss says he has nothing but admiration for those whose durability spans years.

Hearts manager Craig Levein insists spats with fellow managers are not personal. Pic: SNS/Ross MacDonald
Hearts manager Craig Levein insists spats with fellow managers are not personal. Pic: SNS/Ross MacDonald

Although more relaxed about his public persona, admitting he cares less what others think the older he gets, the man who has been at the helm for more than 20 years, at Cowdenbeath, Hearts, Leicester, Dundee United and Scotland, insists the noising up of counterparts has more to do with winning than any personal antipathy.

“Look, I try my very best to be civil to everybody, to be as humble as possible and not be a pain in the arse but sometimes it can’t be helped.

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“A lot of the time I’m just having a laugh. I don’t set out to harm anybody, I really don’t and that’s why all the stuff with Michael Stewart, about me trying to get him the sack, crossed a line. That really hurt me. It simply wasn’t true. So he can say he doesn’t like me, he can have a go at me if he wants but telling lies, that annoys me.”

The spats with fellow managers are not an issue, though, says Levein, who claims they are fuelled by the demands of the job.

“Most of it is good-natured,” he continued. “At other times passions boil over but it really isn’t personal. There is a great deal of empathy amongst managers. Hand on 
heart, I don’t dislike anybody who has the balls to put themselves in this position because being a manager is hard. It is really, really difficult.”

Following Neil Lennon’s Hibs departure, Levein has been in touch with his former derby foe to arrange “a beer and blether”, something that would have been difficult while they faced up in the capital.

Levein explained: “The very 
nature of what I do and what he does means it is hard to be friends.

“It’s the same with Derek McInnes. I felt he was a bit naughty recently so I had a bit of a go but I think we understand that by the very nature of what we both do we are both very competitive – if you weren’t you couldn’t do this job – so we are fighting for the same thing and if I take points off him it hurts him and if he takes points off me it hurts me.

“In those circumstances you can’t really be friends but I do have a huge amount of respect for any manager. And anybody who has the longevity to stay in it for a while then I have even more respect for them.

“Things change all the time and you have to adapt. You have got to keep reinventing yourself to stay relevant.”