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Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Levein's Tayside legacy

Craig Levein
Levein pointed Dundee United in the right direction

By Jim Spence

Craig Levein worked a minor miracle at Tannadice. Just over three years ago, he inherited a United side that had just been hammered 5-1 at Falkirk, shipped 16 goals in their previous four matches and won just one of 12 Scottish Premier League games.

Many felt United were headed for relegation.

After replacing United legend Craig Brewster, Levein's first game in charge was at home to Rangers. United won 2-1 and the long road to recovery began.

The late chairman, Eddie Thompson, worked hard to bring Levein to Tannadice and, until Thompson's death over a year ago, the bond between the two men was an unbreakable one.

Thompson trusted Levein's judgement implicitly and the manager had the full backing of a chairman whose ambitions for the club knew no bounds.

Both men understood that the key to success was the relationship between the two key figures at any club; chairman and manager.

United didn't so much interview Levein as the other way around.

Craig Levein
Levein wasn't scared to open his mouth and speak out against the authorities

He had returned to management in Scotland with Raith Rovers after a wounding spell at Leicester. United found him to be firm in his views on how to run a football club and his vision and ambition was a perfect match with the chairman's.

Nothing escaped his attention. A regular attendee at youth games, a frequent traveller around the country scouting for new players and possessing a keen eye for overlooked talent suited his ethos of hard work.

A good relationship with the media helped too - he had a sure touch in that arena. Regular appearances as a radio and TV pundit confirmed that his missionary work at United was built on a base of solid footballing knowledge and conviction.

He brought a sense of gravitas and purpose to the job at Tannadice and he was never afraid to confront authority, whether it be referees or his new employers, the Scottish Football Association, when he felt it was justified.

His man-management skills have won him many plaudits and scouring his list of signings for a dud is a long and laborious exercise in futility.

In the modern parlance, he saw the big picture. From striking a long-term training-ground deal with St Andrews University, to radically revamping United's youth structure, he was always looking to the future.

He brought a sense of gravitas and purpose to the job at Tannadice and he was never afraid to confront authority, whether it be referees or his new employers, the Scottish Football Association, when he felt it was justified.

In putting a 23-year-old with no experience of professional football in charge of United's junior academy after being hugely impressed by the work he was doing in his own coaching schools, Levein showed himself to be a man of independent mind, prepared to challenge the established football norms.

He now assumes his greatest challenge to date. In international management, he will be scrutinised to a degree unheralded in his career, with the weight of a nation placed on his shoulders.

His appointment has left Dundee United fans bitterly disappointed but not aggrieved. The relationship with Levein and the United fans was one of mutual respect and affection.

They knew he would move on to bigger things and appreciated his honesty in that regard. He, in turn, appreciated the support and loyalty they showed him.

Now the question is, can he make the transition to international team coach?

There has been an almost audible muttering of approval from fans the length and breadth of the country that the Scottish Football Association has got this one right.

Levein is a Fifer and, in the not too distant past, Fife produced some of Scottish football's greatest players.

Here's hoping that the ancient Kingdom is about to produce one of our country's greatest managers.

see also
Levein appointed Scotland manager
23 Dec 09 |  Football
Dundee Utd begin manager search
23 Dec 09 |  Dundee Utd
Who is Craig Levein?
17 Dec 09 |  Dundee Utd
Levein plans a youth revolution
20 Jun 09 |  Dundee Utd


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