Just days after claiming the SPFL was not a level playing field following Hearts’ 3-1 defeat to Celtic, Hearts manager Craig Levein has called on the league governing body to change the rules to help Hearts field a full team in their final game against Kilmarnock.
Levein has asked the league for permission to recall development players who are out on loan as he is struggling to put together a full match day squad for the club’s final league game of the season.
The former Dundee United & Scotland manager said: “I’ve brought a list [of injuries] because the first thing I have to say is that I don’t know if I’ve got a team to put on the field.
“With suspensions and injuries it looks like I’ve got 15 fit players and three of them are goalies. That’s the whole squad.
“[Steven] Naismith is suspended, as are [Christophe] Berra and Michael Smith. Demetri [Mitchell] Danny [Amankwaa] and [Joaquim] Adao. So there’s six players from the other night who are unavailable.”
The Tynecastle side, who defeated city rivals Hibs 2-1 in midweek, have asked the SPFL to allow them ‘special dispensation’ to recall their youth players on loan – who are not currently allowed to play in senior games for their parent club while out on loan, but can play for the Under-20 side.
Levein added: “I’ve got four development loans who are out just now who I would like to use but obviously we need to get the okay from the league. We’re in the process of dealing with that just now.
“The ones who are on development loan can play in the under-20s but by the rules they’re not allowed to play in the first team.
“The question will be ‘Can you let us bring them back so we’ve at least got players on the bench?'”
Levein continued: “I was hit by this this morning. I don’t know what to do. The suspensions I knew about but also Kyle [Lafferty] is doubtful. He hurt his shoulder the other night and that’s giving him pain.
“If players are fit then I’ll need to play them because I need to get a team on the field. It’s not about taking risks.
“My main reason for doing this is that we’ve got supporters going down to Kilmarnock and I just wanted to make sure that everybody was aware that the journey might be a different one as it looks like I’ll be playing a lot of very young players on the pitch.
“I can’t believe it. Honestly. I came back down to earth with a bump this morning but it is what it is.”
Level Playing Field?
Only three days ago Levein blasted a broadside at Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers for criticising the state of the Tynecastle pitch, saying he was ’embarrassed’ about the length of the grass following the Scottish champions’ victory.
Levein fired back, saying: “I would have hated to see the fury and the froth if they had lost the game. He can moan [but] it will be the same again next season.”
“I sat with Brendan for 20 minutes after the game and he never mentioned it. If we want to talk about a level playing field, if they bring a team through here that earn the same money as our players do, then we will put them out on the pitch and see who wins.
“There is not a level playing field in Scotland and I make no apologies for staying within the rules and trying to win the game. None at all.
“As long as we stay within the rules, then I don’t know what he’s bleating about. Celtic prepare their pitch the way they want it. It’s all a nonsense really.”
Now it seems that Levein wants the rules bent to allow him to field a team to play Killie on Sunday. If Levein wants a level playing field then surely he must field a team with what he has at his disposal rather than begging the league to bend the rules? After all, all clubs face injuries and suspensions throughout the year and do not beg for help from the SPFL.
If only Levein had concentrated more on his playing staff and their ill-discipline rather than the length of the grass at Tynecastle, maybe he would not be facing Steve Clarke’s Killie with a thread bare side.