Craig Levein – Dark arts master but knows cheating when he sees it

Craig Levein enjoys the dark arts in Scottish football more than most managers. But he’s no cheat and is prepared to call it out when he sees it. Remember his ground staff at Tynecastle cutting the grass immediately after a victory against Celtic? That’s one example but there are plenty of others.

Refereeing scandal

Levein is the manager who called out the refereeing scandal in Scottish football.  His Dundee United team were simply not allowed to get anything from a vital end of season match at Ibrox. Levein’s side were desperate for points as they chased a European spot.  However the corruption was off-the-scale that day and Levein to his credit called it out.

‘Simply the Best’ Ref 

And when it was put to him that the other teams just don’t get anything against the Old Firm he was quick to point out that it was NOT the Old Firm, he never mentioned Celtic and he was referring to Rangers (now deed) and of course the Rangers supporter with a whistle. You know the one the one who sang Simply the Best in his church. Watch this, this is the referee in the video below…

Craig Levein called for referees from overseas to come into the Scottish game, and no wonder. At the end of the interview, back in the studio the former Rangers captain asks “why do Rangers get everything?” Why indeed.

Watch this…

Using his craft

That was then and  these days Levein is using his craft to keep St Johnstone up and he’s already taken them up a few places pushing Aberdeen and Ross County down into play-off danger with Livingston looking doomed to relegation. St Johnstone could get drawn back into the doomsday mix though so every point gained is ever so valuable at this time of the season for the Saints.

Brendan Rodgers looking less than impressed during the goalless draw against St Johnstone last August. Photo Steve Welsh

Celtic Park is a free hit for Levein

Coming to Celtic Park is a free hit for Levein and he is well aware that taking anything is a going to be a massive bonus. When bottom of the league back at the end of August, St Johnstone picked up a surprise point by holding out for a goalless draw at Parkhead.

That was much to the annoyance of Brendan Rodgers and the Celtic support.  Indeed Matt O’Riley on another day could have had a hat-trick and for Celtic it will be a case of hoping lightning doesn’t strike twice as there is now no room for error.

Callum McGregor in action against St Johnstone back in August 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

Speaking to the local paper in Perth. Levein clearly relishing another chance to get something from playing one of Scottish football’s big two.

Both got the pressure

“By this stage of the season you know pretty much what to expect from every opponent,” Craig Levein stated as reported by The Courier. “It was unusual to see both Old Firm (sic) teams lose on the same weekend but they seem to have bounced back well in their cup ties. They’ve both got the pressure that goes with a tight title race.

“There’s not a lot between them this season. It wouldn’t surprise me if either of them end up winning. That’s not our concern, though.”

The Saints gaffer added: “The boys got a draw at Celtic Park early in the season and I thought we played pretty well against them here. We had a really good chance to equalise when it was 2-1, didn’t take it and they got a third.

Gustaf Lagerbielke in action against St Johnstone last August, photo Steve Welsh

They’ve got quality

“We know that they’ve got quality players but if we work hard and stick to the game plan it will give us a chance. We’ll not go there just worrying about what they can do.

“If we put on a similar performance to the one here – and take our chances – then we’ve got a chance of taking something out of the game. I’m expecting the work-rate to be good again on Saturday again, that the players will be conscientious and that they will give their very best to follow the plan.”

Shirt pulling was of course ignored. Photo Steve Welsh

Park the bus

Levein will almost certainly park the bus on Saturday and this is one of those games where Celtic could do with as much fire-power on the park as possible. Playing Kyogo and Adam Idah would make sense. Whatever happens the first goal is going to be crucial and Levein will do all he can to deny Celtic this for as long a possible.  Every trick under the sun will be used so Celtic need to get the goals early in the game.

A tense ending is not what we need!

Tags Celtic v St Johnstone Craig Levein Mike McCurry Scottish referees
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