Celtic manager backs under-pressure Hearts and Hibs bosses

By David Walton

September 22, 2019

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has labeled one mystery pundit’s verdict “complete rubbish”, as he backed the under-pressure Craig Levein and Paul Heckingbottom.

Today’s Edinburgh derby has a real edge to it with both men starting the season in dreadful form. A loss for either could be pivotal, with both fan-bases unhappy with their start to the season.

Hearts are bottom of the league, and Lennon has had a long rivalry with Levein that stretches back to his Hibs days. Heckingbottom, meanwhile, looks to have made a dreadful overhaul to his side in the summer. The Hibees are struggling for results and confidence, even at this early stage of the campaign.

Craig Levein is struggling to win over Hearts fans (Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

But Lennon has lept to both of his Premiership rivals’ defence. Speaking to the Scottish Sun, Lennon can’t believe the pressure both men are under. He also had a go at one pundit in particular.

“There are always knee-jerk reactions in football now. Managers are under pressure after three or four games and it’s crazy. I don’t know where the thinking comes from.

“Last season Craig reached a cup final, a semi-final and secured the top six. He had a good season. But I heard one pundit saying there had been a deterioration for a long time. It’s just complete rubbish.

“Obviously they both need results. Paul needs a result, Craig needs a result and it will be interesting watching it. But it’s far too early to talk about managers losing their jobs after five or six games.”

Who was the mystery pundit?

There’s only one name that comes to mind when you think of hard-hitting Hearts punditry, and it’s Michael Stewart. The former Jambo has consistently been voicing his opinions on Levein and Hearts, and they haven’t made for pretty reading for the current Tynecastle boss (Scottish Sun).

Of course, Lennon didn’t name the pundit out loud. Therefore, we can’t go confirming exactly who it is he was talking about. But it’s fair to say that Stewart is the best placed for it.

Neil Lennon has backed Levein and Paul Heckingbottom (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But in fairness, both men are still under huge pressure to get a result. Levein’s Hearts haven’t played great football ever since he took over from Ian Cathro back in 2017. Their route-one style hasn’t gone down well at Tynecastle.

Heckingbottom’s side, who Celtic face next weekend, are also toiling. They’re a soft touch at the back, and have conceded a shocking 16 goals in their last five matches. They’re there to be got at, and Lenny will be rubbing his hands at the prospect next weekend.

Paul Heckingbottom could do with a big result to vindicate his summer signings (Alan Rennie/Action Plus via Getty Images)

But on a general note, it’s great to see Neil coming out and backing rival managers. For all of the stick our head coach takes for his personality, he shows consistently that he’s not one to hold a grudge. And when it comes to Levein in particular, he certainly has reason to.

It’ll be an interesting watch today. Some Celtic fans will have their own view on who they want to win this one too. But so long as we wrap up three points against Kilmarnock today, who really cares?