Hearts manager continues feud with Celtic captain and discusses his Scottish Cup hopes

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Hearts manager Craig Levein has continued his feud with Scott Brown after suggesting that Celtic captain deliberately got booked against Kilmarnock last weekend so he would not be suspended for the upcoming Rangers clash.

Brown blamed Levein for picking up his sixth league caution in the Rugby Park defeat after the former Scotland boss said that players need more protection from the midfielder.

After the 1-0 defeat, Brown said: “I was booked with my first foul and I think that is exactly what Craig was looking to do.”

The war of words started after Levein claimed that Brown ‘targeted’ 16-year-old midfielder Harry Cochrane, who sustained a collarbone injury after being challenged by the Celtic player, in the recent clash between the sides.

Levein has refused to back down after highlighting how Brown would have been banned from the March 11 trip to Ibrox if he was shown a yellow card in the Hoops’ next league match against St Johnstone.

Levein, whose side host St Johntone in the Scottish Cup tomorrow, said: ‘I’m not trying to annoy anybody. I’m just saying what I think is right. That’s all.

“And this stuff with Scott Brown has dragged on.

“I think it’s a nonsense, him pointing out that he got booked on Saturday because I made a point of saying he gets away with more than most.

“I believe that. I actually believe that.

“Then I looked at his disciplinary record and saw that he was on five bookings, and worked out that getting booked against Kilmarnock means he misses St Johnstone – but plays against Rangers.

“I kind of put two and two together. And I think I’ve come up with four.

“I can’t say that’s what happened on this occasion. And I must stress that. But I’m just saying it does happen.

“And it is slightly more likely than a referee being influenced by my comments. Because I don’t think they would be influenced.”

Levein, however, was quick to stress that players picking up strategic bookings is widespread across football, and concedes he even did it during his playing career.

He added: “It happens all the time. And, of course, I did it.

“If there was a Hibs game coming up and one more booking got you a suspension, you would take the booking, miss a game before that so you could play in the big game.

“It happens all the time – it happens at international level.

“Managers tell players to get booked. Make sure you get booked in this game – because I want you available for this other match.”

Levein, meanwhile, insists he would love to add a Scottish Cup triumph to his CV, even though he takes pride in Dundee United’s 2010 success with the team he built.

The 53-year-old became Scotland manager six months before Peter Houston led United to victory over Ross County at Hampden.

He added: “That’s one thing I’d like to do. I’ve played in some big matches, and been involved in some finals and in a lot of important football matches but I would like to win this cup.

“I was thrilled to bits when United did it. Would I like to have been the manager? Yeah, of course but Housty did a brilliant job.

“I’ve got some gratification out of it knowing the team was put together under my watch but Housty did a brilliant job.”

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