Early pressure on managers is ‘crazy’ says Hearts’ Craig Levein

Craig Levein has claimed it is “crazy” that so many managers are under pressure so early in the season but blames the hysteria on the growing need for immediate gratification.

Hearts manager Craig Levein oversees training with assistant Austin MacPhee. Picture: SNS

The focus of some fans’ ire following some recent performances, the Hearts boss will take his team to Celtic Park on Sunday hoping to build on last week’s Betfred Cup victory over Motherwell. But he is well aware that a below-par performance could heighten the pressure on him, while a win would turn the spotlight on his counterpart Neil Lennon.

Having only been appointed manager of the treble treble winners in the wake of their Scottish Cup triumph over the Gorgie side in May, failure to safely negotiate the Champions League qualifiers has led to some Parkhead fans turning on the former Hibs boss.

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That has left Levein questioning the protesters’ sanity.

“Give me a crisis like that any day,” he said in reference to the apparently forgotten start the Glasgow side have made to their Premiership defence, beating St Johnstone 7-0 and Motherwell 5-2.

“Seven goals and five goals? The world has gone crazy. Listen, I am under pressure as well am I not? And Paul [Heckingbottom, at Hibs] and Del [McInnes, pictured, at Aberdeen] and, I think, everybody! It’s getting crazy. It used to be you’d get to November before anything happened to managers. Then it was October – now if you lose a pre-season game people lose their shirt.

“Social media is a huge part of it because generally it’s the extreme. Everything is brilliant or crap. The truth, thankfully, with most of the owners is somewhere in between. I think ‘I don’t understand it’ – but I do, it’s the immediacy of it. People want things to 
happen now.”

Having started last season in blistering form, Hearts flopped as they succumbed to a raft of injuries to key players and struggled to gain any traction in the new year.

They did make it to a League Cup semi final and the Scottish Cup final, where they matched Celtic for long periods, and while they didn’t gain winners’ medals, they did earn back some pride.

But, while they have progressed to the quarter-finals of the Betfred Cup already this term, they have yet to hit their best form, attracting the wrath of some punters.

Levein says the only way for him and the players to shield themselves from the most caustic elements is to steer clear of social media and deliver on the pitch.

“How do you shield yourself from it? Win every week! I ignore the noise. Most complaints are from the extremes and sometimes you get praised for not doing much.

“Most ordinary people are getting on with their lives and use football at the weekend for relaxation and pleasure. Unfortunately I can’t use it for relaxation or pleasure and it does get ridiculous. It used to be you got plenty of time to shape a team. Now, after every match, you get this hysteria, as Lenny calls it.

“Listen, if you’re not doing well the fans will boo in the stands. We got booed long before there was social media. It’s just the severity of it that has changed, the extremes of it.

“It was never as high and never as low. Now it’s this instant gratification. And then it becomes a snowball coming down a hill.”

Having removed himself from Twitter, Levein also avoids forums, aware that the loudest voices don’t always speak with the greatest authority.

“I stopped reading social media or comments online a long time ago. It’s not helpful when you are doing well to read everything is fine because you know there’s probably a pothole just around the corner,” he added.

“And when you’re inside a club and know how hard everyone is working you know some of the criticism is not accurate because you can see what’s going on. But, over the last four or five years, it has taken on a new aggression, I would say, that wasn’t there before.”

Attempting to maintain his equilibrium, Levein says that, when it comes to the people inside the club, in the boardroom and the dressing room, the hope is that they can shut out the noise and ensure logic prevails.

“You hope that the directors at the club, at every club, stay in the middle and make 
decisions based on evidence,” Levein added.

“I don’t expect to be bulletproof but I also know that there’s a lot of good things going on here and I’m excited by what the future holds. And I’m sure a lot of other managers in similar positions feel the same. The rest of it is just part of what surrounds what we do and we’ve just got to deal with it.”