CRAIG LEVEIN insists the ability of the Edinburgh derby to serve up either joy or despair has filled him with excitement ahead of his return to Easter Road as Hearts manager.
The 53-year-old has experienced his fair share of the ecstasy the capital encounter can provide, boasting a record of just six defeats in 52 as a player or boss, and he readily confesses the game is one of the things he missed most when he was out of the dugout.
Levein will take charge of the Tynecastle outfit against Hibs for the first time since presiding over a 2-1 win just before moving to Leicester City in October 2004.
Thirteen years on, it is Hibs – with a sequence of seven undefeated against their bitter rivals – who go into the game enjoying the dominance the Hearts head coach became used to in previous spells at the club.
However, it is that very win or bust nature of the clash that has got the former Scotland manager’s juices flowing as he bids to bring delight to the maroon faithful for the first time in over three years.
“I am looking forward to it,” he said. “It was one of the big things I missed.
“It is just the all or nothingness of it. Complete joy or despair. The thought of that makes me quite excited.
“If you don’t win it is bad, and if you don’t win and don’t perform it is really bad. It has been difficult.
“These things go in cycles. It is important we break the run of recent success for for Hibs. Then the pendulum can start swinging the other way again.
“How do you cope with despair? I have been there before, you just have to deal with it.”
When Levein returned to the dugout in the wake of Ian Cathro’s sacking in August, the feeling within the Hearts support was that the former skipper’s deep understanding of the rivalry with Hibs would help the Jambos turn the tide in derbies.
However, with an injury-ravaged midfield that is minus the likes of Arnaud Djoum, Don Cowie and Malaury Martin, he has a selection conundrum to solve as he seeks to prove the fans’ faith was not misplaced.
“I don’t feel extra pressure,” he added. “The game itself brings pressure, which is greater than some other matches. It’s the whole occasion – it is a joy to be involved in.
“I thought that as a player and as a manager last time, probably because we had notable success, so hopefully that can happen again.”