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Hearts boss Craig Levein will not get caught up in any hysteria, no matter the boos

© SNSHearts manager Craig Levein
Hearts manager Craig Levein

Hearts have yet to kick a ball in the Premiership – but Jam Tarts fans are already dishing out stick to Craig Levein.

They were at it in the very first game of the Betfred Cup – a Tynecastle draw with Dundee United – when one ‘fan’ didn’t even make it to half-time before unleashing a tirade towards the dugout over the heads of the watching Press.

They were at it again – this time en masse – after last weekend’s draw with East Fife in the same competition, despite watching their team secure qualification to the knockout stages as group winners.

Levein accepts the punters have a right to expect victories over lower league teams, just as he does.

But ahead of today’s league kick-off against Aberdeen, he insists he will never let criticism get to him – especially when he believes his side are on the right track.

“After the Scotland job, nothing bothers me,” he said.

“My job’s not to get caught up in any hysteria. Whether it’s us doing particularly well or particularly badly. Right now we’re somewhere in between.

“We’ve qualified from our group as winners, not as comfortably as we’d have liked, but I watched the videos back and I don’t get caught up in the hype, one way or the other.

“We created enough chances to win half-a-dozen games by three or four goals. I worry if we’re not doing that.

“Our defending is good, our midfield will improve with one or two signings, and so far we’re on track.

“I can’t afford to go through the highs and lows, it doesn’t help with your thinking – and the supporters are allowed to be upset.”

One man they are far from upset with is summer centre-half capture Craig Halkett.

The ex-Livingston man scored half of the Jam Tarts’ total of six goals in the Betfred Group stage, while also impressing at the other end of the park.

Levein is delighted with how Halkett has quickly settled into life at Tyencastle.

Now he is giving consideration to how to get the best out of his new charge, along with central-defensive stalwarts Christophe Berra and John Souttar.

“Craig has been good and he has chipped in with a few goals,” said Levein.

“I wouldn’t say I didn’t know he could do that, because he scored fairly regularly for Livingston. But, obviously, that wasn’t the main reason for him coming to us.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been a bit wasteful in front of goa,l but in all of the games I think our defending has been really good.

“We have used each combination of Christophe, John and Halks. Those combinations have all been really good.

“Michael Smith is in a good place, and so is Aaron Hickey, so I think defensively I am really pleased with what we are doing.

“In midfield, we still have one or two players to bring in. While up front we are waiting on our strikers firing a few goals home.”

Where those up top have been slow off the mark, Halkett has been rapid.

Yet Levein insists he would prefer to let his new signing get his feet planted at the back before experimenting with his position.

“Because Craig has scored some goals doesn’t always mean that playing further upfield is something he will feel comfortable with,” said the Hearts gaffer.

“When a player comes to a club it’s really important he makes a good impression. We’ve seen what happens when they don’t make a good impression.

“For me to start shifting players around because I think he could maybe – and that’s what we are talking about here – that he could maybe do something . . . he is in a good place just now.

“I did move Kevin McKenna, but Kevin had been at the club for a while. I like to feel that players are contributing and are an important part of the team.

‘That has to be established before I start all these stupid things.”