YOU can almost hear the firing squad loading the bullets into the rifles when the board say they are backing their under-pressure manager.

Craig Levein is in the unique position of providing some of the ammunition that will come his way if Hearts are turned over by Hibs in the Edinburgh derby at Easter Road this afternoon.

Club owner Ann Budge has had some kind words to say about the man who doubles as team boss and director of football. Those soothing sentiments, however, do not wash with an irate support who have seen their favourites lurch from disastrous performance to another in recent times.

They have questions to ask of the Tynecastle hierarchy and their decibel level will undoubtedly rise in Leith today if the Jambos, who are currently propping up the rest of the Premiership, are on the receiving end of a derby demolition.

Levein is between the rock and the hard stuff, there can be no argument.

May 25 and the chance of Scottish Cup glory in the Hampden showpiece must seem an awful long time ago for the team’s followers.

Dreams were dynamited at the national stadium when Celtic came back from the loss of a goal to Ryan Edwards to win 2-1 with an Odsonne Edouard double to seal a historic treble treble.

While the Hoops supporters celebrated joyously, the Hearts faitful headed for home and the hopes of better things this time around.

They’re still waiting.

Dismally, Levein’s team have picked up only two points from their opening five games of the season.

Last weekend’s 3-2 home defeat to Motherwell was followed by fan protests outside Tynecastle, with some supporters calling for Levein’s sacking.

Budge posted a lengthy statement on the club’s website criticising “unfair” coverage of the team boss and dismissing claims the club are lining up a replacement.

“Our Board remains behind the manager, his coaching staff and his team,” insisted the club chief.

“Not because he is ‘untouchable’, not because he is ‘all-powerful’, and not because we are ‘weak’, as has been suggested.

“We remain behind him because we believe in the plan we have jointly put together.

“What we do not do is overreact, throw all of our plans out of the window and start again.”

Extremely supportive and encouraging endorsements from the club’s supremo who has already sacked two bosses in Gary Locke and Ian Cathro in her time in charge.

A defeat this afternoon might leave the frustrated away support with the last word, though.

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About Author


Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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