BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CRAIG LEVEIN insists Michael Stewart is embarrassing himself with his repeated attacks on Hearts as he accused the former Jambos midfielder of pursuing a personal vendetta.
The straight-talking pundit has been a vociferous critic of the ex-Scotland manager, shining a light on failures in recruitment, playing style and results over a long period, with Levein previously keeping his own counsel on the comments.
However, the final straw came on Saturday, when Stewart described Hearts’ 0-0 draw against Ross County as ‘not good enough’ and pinpointed a lack of quality and penetration. Levein felt that was beyond the pale after the capital club registered 23 shots, 10 of which were on target, against the Highlanders.
He blasted: “It is personal and he is just making a fool of himself. I don’t particularly like him and I hear he doesn’t like me. He’s said that. He’s openly admitted it.
“I can take criticism if it’s fair and it’s based on something other than a grudge, but he’s going to self-combust one day.
“I’m not at any point saying that I don’t deserve any criticism. I have had more of it than most, particularly during my time at Scotland, but criticism of me at that time was valid. Michael, on the other hand, has admitted he has an agenda and keeps going on about the same stuff over and over and over again.
“I just don’t see how that is fair. Someone was telling me that he was trawling about on Saturday night trying to find stuff on the Internet to prove that we hadn’t played well. It is hysterical. He just needs to chill.”
Levein was the man who brought Stewart back to Scottish football, signing the young playmaker on loan from Manchester United in 2004, with a quirk in the contract meaning Hearts had to technically contribute a pound per week towards his wage to seal the deal.
And the experienced coach could not resist a cheeky dig at Stewart, claiming he wasn’t even worth that much during a campaign which saw Stewart struggle and their relationship fall apart.
Levein continued: “I remember his agent at the time was a guy called George Wright, who used to play here. We didn’t have any money at the time but George said that Man United would cover his salary for him to come on loan.
“However we had to put something on the contract as a technicality, so it was a £1-a-week and, without doubt, it was the worst value for money player I have ever had. That is a fact.”
The Tynecastle boss also revealed he has held talks with BBC bosses after questioning why Stewart is given a repeated platform on television and radio to lambast his old club and, specifically, Levein’s role in an underwhelming campaign.
He continued: “Somebody drew my attention to what he was saying after the game on Saturday, when we played well and had all those chances, and it got to the point where I thought ‘listen, if he can’t accept that and is still trying to pick holes in it, for me, it comes back to the BBC allowing him to do that’.
“I’m actually not that bothered about Michael Stewart or what he says but I am annoyed at the BBC. For him to admit that he has an agenda and for them to still allow him the platform, for me, that is a nonsense.
“He is trying to whip up fans and they have allowed him that opportunity, but I have had a conversation with them so we will see what happens.”