Craig Levein has defended Kyle Lafferty, who was described as “a nutter” by outspoken pundit Chris Sutton.
The Hearts manager refused to be drawn into a war of words with the ex-Celtic striker but suggested he may rue some of his comments concerning the Tynecastle forward.
“I’m sure Chris will regret it,” said Levein. “I think it was just a little bit silly. I don’t want to get involved in anything else other than to say that Chris is a decent guy and I’m sure he regrets saying that.
“Since Kyle has been here, I’ve had a brilliant relationship with him. I don’t see anything different. It’s just a normal situation. They [Rangers] have made an offer, we’ve said it’s not enough.”
Lafferty, whose wife Vanessa gave birth to their first baby together yesterday, is the focus of on-going interest from Rangers, whose initial bid of £200,000 for the man who topped the Gorgie club’s scoring charts last term was rebuffed.
But Sutton believes it would be better for all involved if the Northern Irishman was to stay put, claiming he would be an underwhelming signing for the Ibrox club and asserting his belief that he would get more game-time at Hearts.
He also questioned the 31-year-old’s influence on the dressing room, describing him as a “time-bomb”.
But Sutton added that he is also a fan of what Lafferty contributed to Hearts’ cause last term and backed the capital club’s stance after they made it clear that they would be looking for an offer of around £750,000 before they would countenance parting with the player, who weighed in with 19 goals in his first season.
“If Rangers did bid £200,000 then that is not enough,” said Sutton. “Why would Hearts let a player go for that paltry sum? If Rangers do want him then they will have to splash the cash.”
Levein said he has no issue with his Premiership foes testing the water with a low bid, saying it is good business, but he maintained that the offer would have to be significantly increased for any deal to be struck.
“They’ve made an offer, it’s not good enough, so we’ll see what happens,” he added. “I’ve had a couple of chats with people at Rangers this week but without there being any other development. The thing isn’t dead but the offer that was made is not good enough.”
He said that Lafferty is aware of the club’s position, having met with owner Ann Budge this week and has remained professional. “This happens at every club all the time but it seems to cause more of a fuss with Kyle than anybody else.
“Kyle is alright. His wife has just given birth so he’s got that to think about. He has been off due to the birth and he will be in a good place because of that, I’m sure, and he’ll be back in training. I plan on him being involved on Saturday.
“He was good when he came on last Sunday and was unlucky not to get a couple of goals. He will be on a high having his child.”
With a mass influx of players over the summer, the Hearts boss, who takes his team to Hamilton tomorrow for their opening Premiership fixture of the new campaign, stressed there was also no major pull towards adding another recruit if Lafferty does leave.
“I’ve done a fair bit of business already. It’s not something I’m overly worried about. We’ve also got [Czech striker David] Vanecek on a pre-contract and I’m still working on trying to get him in before the window closes – whether Kyle is here or not. That would then give me even more firepower.”
Don Cowie and Liam Smith are two more who could be departing Tynecastle. There is an offer on the table, thought to be from Ross County, for the midfielder, and with more competition for starting spots this season, both are aware of their place in the pecking order.
“Don has been made a good offer from elsewhere and if he stays then I am delighted, and if he goes then I am delighted for him. I have no anxiety either way,” said Levein.
“When someone is getting into the dusk of their career and he wants to play every week, then I’m comfortable with him going somewhere else to do that, if that’s what he wants.
“Liam needs to go and play games to create a career for himself somewhere. There’s another month to go before the window closes so I don’t know whether it will be permanently or on loan – there are options.”