Craig Levein has declared he received John Souttar’s backing over claims that Dundee United “nearly ruined” the defender’s career.
United hit out at “derogatory and misleading” comments after quotes from the Hearts manager appeared in the media on Tuesday.
The former Tannadice boss claimed the centre-back lacked support and became an “easy target” after the now 21-year-old was played at right-back, left-back and in midfield for United before establishing himself as a Scotland international following his form with Hearts.
When asked about United’s criticism of his comments, Levein said: “I don’t think they read them properly in all honesty but maybe the headlines didn’t help.
“However, my point stands and, funnily enough, John himself made the point of mentioning to me in the afternoon that Dundee United put the statement out he wholeheartedly backed up every word I said. So that tells you a story.
“I love Dundee United, I had a brilliant time there. I wasn’t meaning to be disrespectful.
“I just pointed out how a young player can go off the rails very quickly if he doesn’t get the right support, and how John became a player that was tarnished with this reputation that came from Dundee United that he was soft and couldn’t win headers.
“And I think in Scotland we are a bit quick to criticise, particularly at a young age.
“John has worked ever so hard to get himself in a position where he has got into the national team and become the captain of Hearts, and all I was doing was really trying to give him even more confidence.
“That was it, I wasn’t meaning to have a go at anybody.”