Hearts manager Craig Levein has criticised the BBC, accusing the broadcasters of pandering to pundit Michael Stewart and giving him a platform to pursue a personal vendetta.s
The Tynecastle boss revealed he has contacted the BBC’s head of sport, Tom Connor, to question the broadcaster’s promotion of the commentator, who is a regular guest on the channel’s Sportscene highlights show and a staple of the radio broadcasts and online discussion programmes, and who has become increasingly antagonistic and critical of his former manager.
As well as picking faults in the way his team plays, previous managerial and squad signings, the ex-Hearts captain has derided comments made by Levein in interviews.
Pertinently, he has also admitted to a personal dislike for the man who signed him on loan from Manchester United in 2004.
“It is personal and he is just making a fool of himself. I don’t particularly like him and I hear he doesn’t like me,” said Levein, whose team have not won any of their past five matches and are currently seventh in the Premiership standings.
“The details of the conversation will remain between Tom and I.
“But somebody drew my attention to what he [Stewart] was saying after the game on Saturday, when we played well and had all those chances, and it got to the point where I thought ‘listen, if he can’t accept that and is still trying to pick holes in it, for me, it comes back to the BBC allowing him to do that’.
“That is more worrying than what he’s actually saying,” added Levein.
“He doesn’t like me, he’s said that. He’s openly admitted it, and I don’t like him.
“I can take criticism if it’s fair and it’s based on something other than a grudge, but he’s going to self-combust one day!
“Someone was telling me that he was trawling about on Saturday night trying to find stuff on the internet to prove that we hadn’t played well.
“It is hysterical. He just needs to chill. He thinks he is doing his best for Hearts and I am certainly trying to do my best for Hearts.”
Levein took over an imbalanced squad in disarray, following the departure of head coach Ian Cathro at the start of the Premiership campaign, and he believes he needs two transfer windows to put things right. But he insisted that, just because the combative and outspoken former Manchester United, Hearts and Hibs player says something, it does not mean that everything the club is doing is wrong.
“I’m actually not that bothered about Michael Stewart or what he says but I am annoyed at the BBC. For him to admit that he has an agenda and for them to still allow him that platform, for me, that is a nonsense.
“He is trying to whip up fans and as I say it is the BBC… they have allowed him that opportunity but I have had a conversation so we will see what happens.”
Stewart made over 100 appearances for the
Gorgie club over two spells, the first coming on loan from Old Trafford, under Levein, and it seems that the mutual antipathy stems from the period.
“All I can say for Michael is that his agent at the time was a guy called George Wright, who used to play here. We didn’t have any money at that time and George said that Man United would cover his salary but we still had to put something on the contract so it was a £1 a week and, without doubt, he was the worst value for money player I have ever had and that is a fact!”
The latest angry outburst, in the wake of last Saturday’s draw with Ross County, which Hearts dominated but despite the home team generating over 20 shots at goal finished goalless, was the last straw, according to Levien.
He saw it as an indication that Stewart’s personal feelings are being allowed to cloud his commentary and was prompted to pick up the phone to the pundit’s employers.
“I’m not at any point saying that I don’t deserve any criticism. I have had more criticism than most, particularly during my time at Scotland, but criticism of me at that time was valid,” added Levein.
“But when he has admitted he has an agenda and keeps going on about the same stuff over and over and over again, I just don’t see how that is fair. I just don’t get it. And the BBC, for me, have always been a company that plays it straight down the middle.”