Craig Levein: Former Scotland boss on life as a manager, getting sacked & 4-6-0

Craig Levein

The first episode of Sacked In The Morning, with Craig Levein and Amy Irons, will be available from Wednesday on BBC Sounds, with a series of big-name bosses discussing the life of being a football manager.

If you ask me why people want to get into management, sometimes I wonder, why bother? It's an intense rollercoaster that never lets you get your feet up to appreciate it.

Getting good victories? The immediacy of the next game takes over. Getting bad results? You are the one carrying the can and there is a microphone about to be thrusted in front of you. So, my advice? Do not do it.

In all seriousness, it is a job in which you cannot let yourself get too high or too low. You have to stay somewhere in the middle.

You need to remember your livelihood is at stake. You are representing a club. You carry the responsibility. But just don't get too down or too elated.

Quite often when I was younger, I would be lying asleep and wake up. I would be up and down three or four times, waking my wife up, moving into the spare room and sitting writing notes for the match the next day.

Friday night for me was always very restless, as was a Saturday after a game. It is always difficult to wind down. It is constant, you never get a break.

And, when the end of the season comes and you feel you can get away on holiday, the phone is going non-stop with agents and players. It is 24/7, 365 days in a year, no doubt about that.

'Soul-destroying' sackings

I was fortunate I did well at Cowdenbeath and Hearts, but my first taste of failure was at Leicester City. It was soul-destroying.

It is a terrible feeling that hangs around you for a long time. Some people cannot come back from their first knockback, but I went away for a while and made a copious amount of notes, reassessing what had happened.

If there are 10,000 fans singing "you're getting sacked in the morning", you can laugh that off and take it on the chin - but when the sacking comes, it's just devastating.

You know with results what is coming, but you wonder how long you'll get to turn things around. The one and only time I have felt sorry for an owner sacking me was with my most recent spell at Hearts.

I got on so well with Ann [Budge], she was quite upset about it. But you just have to accept it. It is part of the territory.

Someone has to take responsibility and 99 times out 100 that's the manager, plus owners are more trigger-happy these days. I have fallen out with loads of managers across the years, but there is a degree of empathy with the job.

It is such a tough gig. That is why I admire the managers who are in the game long-term, guys like Dick Campbell and David Moyes. There is constant pressure on the older ones from younger coaches.

That is a whole different argument, the experienced managers versus the young, bright, up-and-coming coach.

Without realising it, you do actually pass from being a young guy into becoming a dinosaur. There are new coaches coming along all the time reinventing words football has used for years.

4-6-0 & 'messing' with media

Regardless of who you are, if you don't win matches, you are open to any criticism. I am not the only manager to suffer getting sacked and I was certainly not the first to be sacked for not getting Scotland to a tournament.

Taking the national team job was a difficult situation because I did not really want to leave Dundee United, but who knows if I would have got the chance again. I had been lucky to captain the national team once, but I took so long to make up my mind.

It was so different to what I was doing. Club management is relentless, but international management almost felt like a part-time job. The downtime was excruciating.

My week consisted of going up and down on the motorway to England watching players. I was basically trying to fill my day. I would not go as far to say boredom, but it was bordering on that.

People will always remember the 4-6-0 formation we played against the Czechs, but I try to forget about it. Anyway, you are better to be known for something than nothing, eh?

In all honesty, no-one would have noticed if it was not for a player leaking it to the press and, even today, I am still comfortable with that decision. Looking back, I would do the same thing. But at least it gives people something to talk about.

I didn't agree with everything that was said at the time and I did get annoyed at the questioning, but how you respond is important, so I would enjoy messing around with the press.

Like getting sacked, it is part of the business and you do not get training for that. The same as when you need to be like a counsellor for your players who have problems at home, you become a jack-of-all-trades without having experience.

Levein was speaking to BBC Scotland's Nick McPheat.

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