Hearts manager Craig Levein has leapt to the defence of Hibs rival Neil Lennon after conceding that he has been guilty of behaving like the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ in the dugout.
Lennon is facing a Scottish FA suspension from the technical area after furiously confronting referee Kevin Clancy in the aftermath of being sent to the stand during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Kilmarnock.
A contentious penalty award was the source of Lennon’s anger, with the former Celtic manager later claiming Clancy had a personal vendetta and describing the standard of refereeing as ‘Mickey Mouse’.
However, former Scotland manager Levein, who took the SFA to court in 2003 in a battle about a disputed fine over comments made about referee Dougie McDonald, concedes he can relate to Lennon’s outburst.
Levein, whose side will attempt to respond from Saturday’s disappointing 2-0 defeat at Rangers with victory over a resurgent Kilmarnock at Tynecastle this evening, said: “Listen, I’ve been over the line loads of times.
“The point I’m making is I understand Neil’s frustration. Because I’ve been there. But there has to be a line.
“I think this whole furore is interesting. It’s good that it’s not me at the centre of it.
“The pressure has increased enormously in the last 20 years.
“That’s on referees and on coaches. The average length of time a coach gets to do a job now is less than a year.
“So obviously that builds, when you are worried about your job.
“But the pressure on referees has increased enormously because clubs are fighting for more money.
“Each decision can financially hurt each club.
“But there has to be a line. There has to be a line – or it becomes chaos.”
Levein concedes there have been times when he has regretted losing his cool – admitting that fourth officials tend to bear the brunt of his fury.
Levein added: “Before the fourth officials were there, as long as you kept the technical areas a good 20 metres apart, all you did was go round and round like a Tasmanian Devil – until you’d calmed down.
“That’s what happened. Now the fourth official is the one who gives you somebody to vent your anger at. And I actually feel sorry for them.
“Half the things I say, I think to myself afterwards: “What a f****** p***k I am’.”
Levein, meanwhile, insists Harry Cochrane will have a better chance of making it to the top if he walks into any new club as a first team player instead of an academy prospect.
English Premier League outfit Brighton have been linked with a move for the precocious midfielder in the wake of the 16-year-old earn raving reviews in his breakthrough season with the Tynecastle outfit.
Levein added: “He has a long way to go before he becomes the finished article.
“The people who are looking at him just now are not looking at him as the finished article. They are looking for an opportunity to steal him for a smaller price and put him in their under-20 team.
“The ones who go after playing two or three games, the success rate is pretty poor.
“The success rate of the ones who played 100 games is the one that’s hugely significant.
“It’s a very simple thing; if you’re a manager and you spend £3 million on a player, you are more likely to play him than another player in your squad.”