Hearts interim boss Austin MacPhee has lashed out at pundit Allan Preston, accusing him of spreading lies in an astonishing rant.
The Tynecastle caretaker was left livid by comments made by Preston during a discussion on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound show ahead of this month’s win over St Mirren.
MacPhee suggested the former Jambos defender had attempted to undermine his chances of landing the Gorgie job on a permanent basis with four “factually incorrect” statements.
The BBC were later forced to issue an apology to the Northern Ireland assistant boss.
But that did not appear to appease MacPhee, who hit back as he held a press conference ahead of Saturday’s trip to Kilmarnock.
He said: “The results I’ve had as the manager speak for themselves.
“Prior to the game, I spoke with confidence about what I thought the team could achieve in that game and where I think the club can go.
“I know in particular that Allan Preston on the BBC opened the programme before the game by discrediting me with four different statements in particular which were just lies, which I was very disappointed with.
“I thought it was a slight on my players, on the club and for the BBC’s ‘voice of Hearts’ to make these statements I thought was very poor.
“I believe the difference between a lie and an error is it is done with malice.
“Now if you open the show being heavily critical of me and then try to back it up with four points that are factually incorrect, then I believe that’s four lies.
“The first one was that we were bringing in players from Manchester City’s academy. That’s a complete fabrication. Not true.
“Ryotaro Meshino was signed for one million euros from Gamba Osaka and came straight to Hearts, so he has never set foot in Man City’s academy. The second one was that Craig Wighton was brought in from nowhere so I could stick two fingers up to Craig Levein.
“That is also a complete lie. Craig Wighton in his last two games for Craig Levein – when he was fit and available – started at Parkhead then came on in the cup final.
“Craig then suffered a medial ligament injury in pre-season so the Rangers game was the first game for which he could be selected.
“He also said that the academy wasn’t working and the last player to be sold from the academy was Callum Paterson, who joined the club at 16. That’s not true either. Callum left in 2017. In 2018 Marc Leonard left for Brighton and Jamie Walker signed for Wigan.
“There’s three lies to back up his case. The final one was obviously saying I brought in Malaury Martin. That also isn’t true and is a complete fabrication.
“If you’re going to associate any players with me, surely it would be the players who have come in from Northern Ireland, which include the top goalscorer since John Robertson (Kyle Lafferty), and also the biggest return we’ve had since I’ve been at the club in Esmael Goncalves. Two strikers that I recommended.
“So I was very disappointed with people trying to put me on the back foot immediately.
“I feel that I have to tell the supporters that they can’t trust some of the information that the BBC’s Hearts expert is putting out there.
“I need to address these to defend my players, academy staff and make sure the truth is told.”
Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill was invited on to Sportsound a few days later to defend his right-hand man.
And MacPhee – who said he knew nothing about reports he was being lined up by owner Ann Budge to take on the new role of sporting director rather than boss – added: “The BBC’s apology to me apologised for the tone and lack of balance. Honestly, I’m not bothered. It doesn’t matter.
“Michael O’Neill spoke up for me – somebody who has actually worked with me day in, day out for five-and-a-half years – whereas some of the guys in the studio I have never met.
“It would be far better for this club if the focus of the discussion was on the performance. If the BBC want to apologise to me for the tone and lack of balance then that’s an indictment on the way the show started that day.
“That’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is people trying to lie to make sure I can’t do my job.
“So far I’m unaware that I have been dismissed (as a candidate). I can’t comment on that.
“I don’t think any caretaker manager with the record I’ve got, which is four wins out of five, would be dismissed for this role.
“I’m taking the team tomorrow and hoping we can build on it.”
An on-air apology to MacPhee was made on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme, which stated: “Before we talk about Hearts and their managerial vacancy, we apologise to Austin MacPhee for the tone and lack of balance during last Saturday’s discussion on their search for Craig Levein’s successor.”