Locking fans out not the answer, says Hearts boss Craig Levein

Hearts manager Craig Levein. Picture: Bruce White/SNS
Hearts manager Craig Levein. Picture: Bruce White/SNS
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Despite the despicable scenes at Tynecastle in midweek, Hearts manager Craig Levein has appealed for some perspective, saying that it would be too extreme to talk about playing future capital derbies behind closed doors or reintroducing perimeter fences or netting.

Instead he has called on anyone caught throwing missiles or assaulting players to be banished sine die and has asked the decent fans to help weed out those culprits indulging in unsavoury behaviour and besmirching the reputation of their club.

“I put some of this back on the supporters who are near these people,” said Levein. “If they point them out to the police, that might help as well. Anybody who has deliberately thrown a punch or coin should be banned for life. And that might send out a message to other people too.

“We want people coming to the games and getting emotionally involved. But we don’t want them to be scared,” added the Gorgie boss, who takes his team to Celtic Park today, looking for a better result than the 3-0 defeat suffered at the hands of the double treble winners in last weekend’s Betfred Cup semi-final.

But while the concentration of incidents on Wednesday has led to widespread 
coverage and condemnation, Levein said it is nothing new.

“There are coins thrown in just about every match. In this situation, one of them actually struck Neil [Lennon, the Hibs manager]. Some clown also threw a punch at Bobby [Zlamal, the Hearts goalkeeper] and the assistant referee got hit too, so it is highlighted because of three incidents. I don’t know what the answer is, other than banning people. But I don’t think anyone wants nets or barriers.

“This idea of playing behind closed doors … can you imagine that? That’s punishing the 20,000 people who behaved. That’s not the answer either.

“Everybody talks about Scottish football and that passion. That’s what is good about it. What happened the other night is just idiots.

“I have played and managed in these games since 1983 and I could tell you half a dozen situations that were worse than Wednesday. There has been loads of stuff over the years. Every now and again, it just goes too far and both clubs just want to say, ‘We need to cut that out’.

“I remember playing at Tynecastle and the away fans threw golf balls at me. Over the years, there have been flashpoints and this is the latest one but rather than going to the other end of the scale and putting nets or barriers up, why don’t we try to educate people?”

And while he says he could not be bothered interacting with hostile punters in the way Neil Lennon does, he stressed it does not excuse louts who resort to physical abuse.

“I get as much stick as anybody else. I’ve been in situations where supporters have thrown things at me, people have shouted things at me, I’ve been spat on, but reacting to it is the worst thing that can happen. That’s my view. Neil can behave in any way he wants. It’s up to him but I just don’t know how he can be bothered with it. It’s just a hassle.

“I’m not saying in any way that he contributed to what happened. I’m not saying that. I’m saying I don’t know how he can be bothered.”