Neil Lennon relieved capital rival Craig Levein is on mend

Neil Lennon, right, and Craig Levein embrace at Tynecastle before January's Scottish Cup derby. Picture: SNS
Neil Lennon, right, and Craig Levein embrace at Tynecastle before January's Scottish Cup derby. Picture: SNS
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They are sworn enemies on derby day in Edinburgh and have been known to engage in verbal sparring off the pitch.

However, Hibernian manager Neil Lennon admits he was left shaken at hearing how Hearts counterpart Craig Levein was hospitalised at the start of the week.

News that Levein needed emergency medical treatment on Monday morning for what is now known to be a heart problem stunned Scottish football.

Lennon’s concerns for the 53-year-old’s welfare were eased when the two exchanged texts later that day.

Levein, who mischievously
 sparked a row when he claimed that “natural order” had been restored following his side’s Scottish Cup win over Hibs in January, has since tweeted to say that he intends to be back in the dugout after the international break.

Naturally Lennon, whose side travel to Livingston today, is relieved to hear that he is on the mend. He said: “I’m delighted he’s recovering, I was gutted and a bit upset to tell you the truth. You see the headline and you just worry.

“Thankfully I was able to get hold of him later on that day and he was in good spirits.

“It was just texts as I didn’t want to ring him, I knew he was in hospital but didn’t know what condition he was in.

“We sent all our best wishes from the staff here and he got back to me really quickly with his usual dry sense of humour. That to me was a great sign and I will be delighted to see him back soon but he obviously needs a bit of time and a bit of privacy as well.

“At the end of the day, there is huge respect there. You like the verbals sometimes and the spats, I get involved with a lot of people if they rub me up the wrong way and I’m sure I rub people up the wrong way.

“You don’t mean them any ill-will, you just want to beat them and that’s the nature of the job. There is certainly no animosity between us, that’s for sure.”

Levein will miss Hearts’ visit
of St Mirren today but Lennon reckons a brief break from the game could be a blessing in disguise. He added: “I’m delighted he’s on the road to recovery and his health is the most important thing. He is a workaholic and maybe the wee break will do him the world of good. It just shows you the demands of the job and what it can do to you sometimes.”

Lennon, meanwhile, insists he is not overly concerned by Livingston’s new plastic pitch, just weeks after Rangers forward Jamie Murphy picked up a season-ending knee injury on Kilmarnock’s synthetic surface. He said: “I’m not a massive fan but you just get on with it. I know there was the Jamie Murphy injury at Kilmarnock but [Motherwell coach]Stephen Craigan made a very good point that it could happen on grass.

“I’m not a big lover of them but we’ll adapt as best we can.”

Lennon’s Livingston counterpart Gary Holt has stressed he has no interest in ripping up the model which earned the club back-to-back promotions to the Premiership.

Holt admitted his first week back in management since taking over from player-manager Kenny Miller had been “hectic” but insisted the transition has been made smoother by having assistant boss David Martindale by his side.

Martindale’s influence had been questioned after Miller left following just seven matches in charge. But Holt said: “There’s been a lot said and written and a lot of negativity around what’s happened, but the transition for me has been seamless.

“Him [Martindale] being here and the staff being here makes it so much easier. They know what is in place and it is me enhancing that and fine tweaking little bits – off the park and on it. I’m not coming in and making wholesale changes.”

Holt got off to a dream start last week as Livi beat St Mirren 2-0 and he claims teams will not relish trips to the Tony Macaroni Arena this season.

He said: “I’m hoping the negativity about coming to Livingston to play on a plastic pitch could go in our favour. It’s there, it’s lovely to play on and we’re going to use it to the best of our ability. We get in people’s faces, make it a battle and do the things we’re good at.”