CRAIG LEVEIN has railed against the social media-driven hysteria which he contends is piling undue pressure on managers, as the Hearts manager accused Scottish football of collectively ‘losing its s***’.
Levein found himself the subject of criticism following the capital club’s sluggish start to the season, including a defeat on penalties against East Fife in the Betfred Cup – albeit the Jambos progressed to the last-16 regardless – and a meek opening day stalemate against Ross County.
Celtic head coach Neil Lennon, who Levein will face on Sunday, has encountered the ire of some Hoops fans following their Champions League exit against CFR Cluj and a narrow win over Championship outfit Dunfermline last weekend.
Levein confesses to being staggered by that opprobrium having watched the Bhoys win both of their Premiership games this term, scoring 12 goals in the process. He does, however, believe it is symptomatic of a growing trend of overreaction and impatience.
“The world has gone crazy. I am under pressure, Paul [Heckingbottom] and Del [McInnes] and everybody else too, apparently,” said Levein ruefully. “It used to be you’d get to November before anything happened to managers. Then it was October – now if you lose a pre-season game people lose their s***.
“Social media is a huge part of it because it’s the extreme. Everything is brilliant or crap. It’s the immediacy of it all. People want things to happen now.
“It used to be you got plenty of time to shape a team and tinker here and there.
There is little doubt that desire for ‘instant gratification’, as Levein terms it, is being driven in particular by Twitter, where a silent majority is often drowned out by a livid minority.
Levein, whose own account on the platform has been dormant since April, has been targeted regularly by dissatisfied Jambos.
“Over the last four or five years it has taken on new aggression, I would say, that wasn’t there before,” continued Levein. “I don’t get involved, I stopped reading social media or comments online a long time ago.
“It’s not helpful when you are doing well to read everything is fine – because you know there’s a pothole just around the corner. And when you’re inside a club and know how hard everyone is working, you know some of the criticism is not accurate.”
The playing staff are far from immune to the vitriol Levein describes and the former Scotland manager has revealed that he has told his players not to look for validation online – nor take abuse to heart.
“I would say to the young players don’t go looking for praise on social media because you’re just going to find criticism,” continued Levein, who confirmed that injured duo John Souttar and Steven Naismith will not face Celtic on Sunday.
“You don’t need a pat on the back outside the club. Take the pat on the back you get from your team-mates and the coaches – and take the boot up the a*** you get from them too. That will be real and will have the right measure of severity.
“Outside the club, there are people frothing who have no idea of what’s going on.
“I get the pleasure of seeing how hard they work on the training ground and that gives me confidence that if we do go through a difficult period we can come out the other end. Ignore the noise, that’s the message.”
Levein acknowledges that having owners willing to steer the course in the face of Twitter, Facebook and messageboard barbs has become increasingly important amid this brutal landscape. At Hearts, Ann Budge has been a beacon of stability, albeit the manager accepts he is far from ‘bulletproof’.
“You hope that the directors at the club – at every club – stay in the middle and make decisions based on evidence,” he added. “I don’t expect to be bulletproof but I also know that there’s a lot of good things going on here and I’m sure a lot of other managers in similar positions feel the same.
“It [additional criticism] is just part of what surrounds what we do and we’ve got to deal with it – but it has certainly altered a lot since the last time I was here as manager.”