The extraordinary bust-up between Hearts manager Craig Levein and Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes escalated last night with the Dons manager calling Levein “irrational” and “childish”.
But the Tynecastle boss, who had previously described McInnes as a “d**k”, insisted he has no regrets about his outburst and claimed he is looking forward to welcoming the Pittodrie side to the capital for the next head to head in March.
After his side lost 4-3 to Celtic at Pittodrie yesterday, McInnes tore into Levein for his incendiary comments – made in the wake of the weekend meeting between the sides that the Pittodrie side won 2-0.
A dispute over penalty claims saw McInnes attack Levein for his insistence that Hearts had been wrongly denied two spot-kicks and the row was escalated when the Hearts manager then said he was “fed up with Del being a dick” and added “this is the same Derek McInnes who, when I was on the phone to him three weeks ago, was crying his eyes out about decisions going against him.”
McInnes, whose side twice equalised from the penalty spot against Celtic before losing out to late Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair goals, was coruscating about Levein when asked for his response to the Hearts manager’s highly-personal criticism.
“I have been in the game a long time and I find the reaction to what I said about Hearts strange,” said the Aberdeen manager. “I find it irrational and childish. Is the language strange? I think people can make their own opinions on that. I find it really disappointing from someone who has done so much in the game and who I have the highest regard for.
“Craig has intimated that I phoned him and is trying to cast aspersions. Let’s be clear about this – he phoned me. He said I was ‘crying my eyes out’ but who made the call? He was the one complaining and he hasn’t stopped moaning since.
“We played Rangers [and won 1-0 in a first match after losing the Betfred Cup final in early December] and then next day I was on the school run when the phone rang and it was Craig.
“I was still so pleased with my team from winning the game. It was a private phone call and he has put it into the public domain.
“There is more I could say about that call but I won’t. He said to me ‘what are we going to do about these referees’ and my reaction to that was you carry on your crusade but for me over 11 years as a manager, you don’t get any benefit from criticising refs.
“The call came from Craig, which I found surprising because he’s not someone I normally speak to. There was distortion of what happened. Why would I call Craig to complain about referees? You need to ask him why he phoned me to complain about refs? It’s disappointing, I want to concentrate on my team but he decided to create this by putting a private conversation into the public domain.”
“I felt it was even from the last game at Tynecastle, where they got two penalties but he wanted four or five that day. Last Saturday I felt we were hands-down the better team but the first question I was asked was about Craig saying he felt they should have had a couple of penalties.
“My reaction was that Hearts always want penalties. When you get asked after games you have to answer and of course sometimes you are upset about it. But I have spoken about how refs need help with VAR because there is no point continually criticising the officials. I find the whole thing quite irrational and strange.”
But speaking after his side got back to winning ways, triumphing 2-0 over Hamilton Academicals at Tynecastle, Levein refused to soften his stance, saying he texted the Aberdeen boss to let him know his opinion on comments made after the head to head.
“I texted him and told him what I think of him. We have had a discussion and he knows what I think of him.
“He got involved in something that had nothing to do with him, speaking publicly about another manager and his team and I thought he was bang out of order – bang out of order. So I stand by everything I said about him and I am looking forward to him coming here the next time Aberdeen come here.”