Dundee United have issued a statement slamming Hearts boss Craig Levein over the club’s treatment of John Souttar.
Former United boss Levein accused the club of nearly ruining Souttar’s career – as he hailed the Hearts kid as Scotland’s solution at centre-back.
Souttar has seen his star rise since joining the Jam Tarts from the Terrors in January 2016 and saw his recent displays rewarded during the international break, getting his first Scots caps against Belgium and Albania.
The 21-year-old has come a long way since departing Tannadice, where his career looked to have hit the buffers.
The youngster had become something of a scapegoat among a portion of Arabs as a malaise set in and a reluctance to play Souttar in his natural position did little to help.
Levein thinks the negative perception of Souttar as weak and soft has persisted for far too long, and could barely hide his delight at seeing Hearts’ stand-in skipper silence his critics.
“I was thrilled for John and his family,” beamed Levein. “I’ve known John since he was 12 years old. His dad sent me a picture of me coaching John at Dundee United with the caption ‘where have the years gone?’ I was thinking that myself.
“The way his career developed, and had gone off the rails a little bit, people had pigeon-holed him.
“That’s what we do in Scottish football. They said he wasn’t tough enough to be a centre-half.
“He has always been a centre-half. I’m not being disrespectful but they (United) nearly ruined his career – right-back, left-back, centre midfield.
“United sold all their best players and he was left behind and he became an easy target.
“It dogged him for two or three years.”
A Tannadice statement issued today said: “Dundee United are very disappointed to read the derogatory and misleading statement attributed to the manager of a fellow Scottish FA member club relating to ex-United player John Souttar.
“As a club, we are rightly proud of our long-standing and widely held reputation for developing young talent.
“John played top-level football for four seasons having made his debut under Peter Houston at the age of 16 years and 100 days.
“In total, John played 73 times in Dundee United’s first-team and represented his country at all age groups up to and including Under 21s during his time at the club.
“We are extremely proud that one of our youth academy graduates has now progressed into the full Scottish national team and are delighted to have played a significant part in John’s development as a professional footballer. We wish John well in his future career.”