Hearts manager Craig Levein has accused Celtic captain Scott Brown of deliberately targeting Harry Cochrane in Tuesday’s Parkhead defeat – and insists the teenager is gunning for payback.
Midfielder Cochrane had the Hearts staff in a panic after suffering from neck spasms in the dressing room having been forced off following a challenge, which was deemed as fair by referee Craig Thomson, from Brown.
Scotland skipper Brown appeared to land on the Cochrane in the 35th minute coming together and the incident led to Moussa Dembele scoring Celtic’s third goal in the 3-1 victory
The injury has since been diagnosed as a sprained collarbone and the Scotland youth internationalist is expected to be sidelined for at least the next fortnight.
Former Scotland manager Levein reckons Brown was determined not to be outclassed by Cochrane for a second time after the youngster shone as Hearts shattered the Hoops’ 69-game uneaten run with a 4-0 thrashing in December.
Levein, whose side face St Johnstone in a league and Scottish Cup double header, said: “Harry’s alright. I have watched the video, Scott targeted him from the beginning of the match – but Harry’s a tough boy.
“He’ll be out for a wee while. He has damaged his collarbone although it’s not broken.
“He has sprained it and he had neck spasms, we were really worried actually.
“The doc had the spinal board on him and stuff and his neck had gone into spasms in the dressing room.
“So we were really worried, but thankfully he is okay.”
Asked if Brown was determined to administer payback for December’s shock defeat, Levein said: “That’s exactly what it was, but that’s the game. The good thing is Harry says he’s going to sort him the next time.
“I said: ‘go on son!’”
The void left by Cochrane for tomorrow’s Premiership visit of Saints could be filled by Joaquim Adao after the holding midfielder became Levein’s fourth January arrival when he joined on loan from Swiss side Sion on deadline day.
Levein, who admitted interest in striker Kyle Lafferty did not materialise into offers, believes the Angolan internationalist’s arrival will allow his attacking players to flourish.
Asked what the 30-year-old would bring to the team, Levein joked: “He brought me Swiss chocolates, they were fantastic – he’s in the team.
“Honestly, they were brilliant.
“We haven’t had a proper defensive midfield player at the club or a while and he will allow others more freedom, and we should get more people forward.
“I feel really good about him, he’s good and experienced and has bundles of energy, he’s played international football and just knows the position.”
However, Levein, whose search for another striker during the transfer window came to nothing, admits he is resigned to losing Jon McLaughlin when the goalkeeper’s one-year deal expires this summer after admitting that the club cannot compete financially with the offers the player has from England.
The reliable McLaughlin, who joined at the start of the campaign from Burton Albion, played his part in the recent club record eight-game clean sheet run and Levein had been keen to retain the 30-year-old.
Levein added: “I have had a chat with him and he has already had offers from down south way more than we can afford to pay.
“The offer is still on the table and it will remain there, but I am not hopeful.
“At his age, he has young kids – we’re on the same page, he knows I‘d love to keep him and he’d love to stay.
“He has been brilliant. He has brought a lot to the team, he has brought a calmness and assuredness that makes the backline feel safe and secure.”