CRAIG LEVEIN has warned Steve Clarke that the Scotland job is not all it is cracked up to be as he prepares to cross swords with the front-runner for the Hampden hot-seat.
The Kilmarnock boss has worked miracles at Rugby Park during his 18 months at the helm, transforming his home-town club from relegation candidates to the cusp of European football for the first time in 18 years.
His achievements in Ayrshire have put him at the front of the queue to succeed Alex McLeish and arguably made him the peoples’ choice.
But Levein, who endured a largely unsuccessful three years in charge of the national side before leaving the post in November 2012, has offered an insight into the challenges and frustrations of the high-profile vacancy.
As a passionate coach – much like Kilmarnock counter-part Clarke – he found the lack of time to work with players a constant irritation while the travelling back and forth to England to watch games took its toll physically.
Allied with the suffocating pressure, Levein noted ‘the job is not what you think it is’, hinting that Clarke should consider his options very carefully if the Scottish FA come calling.
He said: “It doesn’t bring the same things that day-to-day that football management does, which is that constant involvement with players and keeping your mind active on who you are playing next.
“With the Scotland job, there are long periods of inactivity which I spent going down to England looking at clubs and watching games . . . and stopping at McDonald’s, putting two stone on!
“It’s just not what you think it is. It’s a football management job but it’s not the same.
“If you crave that day-to-day involvement then it’s a hell of a frustrating job – forgetting about all the other stuff you deal with! I’m not saying someone couldn’t do it successfully, I’m saying there are huge differences.
“I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of other people who have done the job. But that was my biggest frustration.”
Levein even admitted he enjoyed his maiden managerial role at Cowdenbeath more than his time with the national side, conceding that his tenure with Scotland is the only time being involved in the sport he loves has ever felt like work.
He continued: “I have been lucky enough to be in football in roles where it doesn’t seem like I am going to work. But the Scotland job isn’t that.
“The feeling wasn’t the same as I had at Dundee United, Leicester, Hearts or even at Cowdenbeath. The latter was part-time but I was still there most days and involved in preparing for games and working with players.
“For someone who craves that level of activity, Scotland is not the right job.”
Meanwhile, Levein insists Hearts are well on course to have half of their starting eleven made up of homegrown talent as he hailed the progress made by their academy since it was rebuilt from the ashes of administration in 2014.
Harry Cochrane and Connor Smith shone in last weekend’s Edinburgh derby draw against Hibs, Anthony McDonald – on loan at Inverness – is expected to have a massive future at the club, while Jamie Brandon, Andy Irving, Euan Henderson and Lewis Moore have all featured at senior level.
Levein added: “Developing young players and giving them the opportunity to play is a massive passion of mine. The exciting thing for me is that we are starting to see some of the rewards from the work that has been done with the academy.
“We have seen the evidence when Harry [Cochrane] and Anthony [McDonald] have played and, although he has only played at the weekend, in Connor [Smith].
“The idea is to get four of five into the first team to make up nearly half of the starting 11 – and we are getting there.”