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Hearts interim head coach Austin MacPhee launches astonishing attack on BBC pundit Allan Preston

AUSTIN MacPHEE has launched a withering attack on former Hearts defender Allan Preston, accusing the BBC pundit of broadcasting ‘malicious lies’ about him and the club.

The Jambos’ interim head coach was visibly seething as he addressed criticisms of the academy system at Tynecastle, his selection of Craig Wighton for the Betfred Cup semi-final against Rangers last month, his relationship with Manchester City and his input on signings.

The national broadcaster took the unusual step of issuing an on-air apology following their discussion about MacPhee during their ‘Open All Mics’ programme a fortnight ago, acknowledging a lack of balance in their tone.

And MacPhee has sought to clarify some of the points raised by Preston, who played for Hearts during the 1992/92 campaign and is a boyhood fan of the club.

“There were a series of comments, particularly from Allan Preston, which were lies to back up his case,” said MacPhee. “His case was that Hearts are in a mess and I can’t do a job here.

“He used four lies to justify that. The first was that all we are doing are bringing in Manchester City academy players, when we don’t have a single Manchester City academy product in our squad.

“The second was that I brought Craig Wighton back into the team out of nowhere to stick two fingers up at Craig Levein. Craig [Levein] actually played Craig Wighton in the last two games Craig Wighton was fully fit for.

“For the BBC’s ‘Hearts expert’ to say that is a) disrespectful to Craig Wighton, a young player who has been working really hard in rehab and b) totally factually incorrect.

“He also claimed the academy was not working and that the last player we sold was Callum Paterson. Another lie. Marc Leonard was sold to Brighton and Jamie Walker was sold to Wigan.

“Lastly, apparently I was the one who brought Malaury Martin to the club. I had never worked with Malaury Martin, didn’t know Malaury Martin. He has just picked an unsuccessful signing and said ‘he brought him in’.

“However, there are five Northern Irish internationalists I have brought to the club and one of our best returns on investment was Isma Goncalves, who I worked with at St Mirren.

“I know the difference between an error – we all make them – and a lie. It’s a malicious misstatement. Four of them. I was very angry about that.

“I need to defend my players, my team and inform the supporters properly. People take pot shots at this club far too easily. It’s lazy, it’s made up, it’s poor, it’s cheap. And Hearts supporters need to realise that.”

Asked whether he had raised his grievances with Preston, MacPhee added: “I phoned him right after when I was told about it – but it wasn’t until I heard the whole narrative that I realised the extent of the utter nonsense that was spoken.

“Also, to be told no-one cares more about the club than Allan Preston? That’s not true.

“There are supporters who go home and away and pay their money – he chooses to work on a Saturday afternoon.”

While Preston does not believe MacPhee is equipped to become Hearts’ new head coach, the 40-year-old’s extended audition for the post continues this afternoon with a visit to Kilmarnock.

The Jambos are seeking to build on a thrilling 5-2 triumph over St Mirren in their last game – MacPhee’s only league match in charge to date – ahead of talks with owner Ann Budge next week.

Neil McCann, Alan Irvine, Stuart McCall and Steve Cotterill have all been interviewed for the post, while Neil Warnock and Daniel Standel have been strongly linked.

“Hearts want to hire someone who plays attacking football, wins games and scores goals,” continued MacPhee. “We did that against St Mirren, so it surely can’t have damaged my chances.

“Ann [Budge] and I are due to speak at the start of next week and also midweek. More water will have gone under the bridge at that point.

“But whatever she and the board decide, I’m sure there will have been logic behind it. It will not be an emotional decision, irrespective of some of the narrative floating about.”

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