The ex-Hearts, Celtic, Hibs and St Johnstone man has been taking a stroll down memory lane with Simon Ferry on the latest episode of Open Goal, and he’s been describing some of the most memorable moments from his storied career, and as you can probably imagine, a certain Mr. Levein features prominently.
Hartley was signed by Levein from St Johnstone on a free transfer back in the summer of 2003 and he quickly went on to establish himself as a fan favourite at Tynecastle, but it turns out his Hearts career was almost over before it had really started.
Following a last-gasp 1-0 defeat to Hibs in the Edinburgh Derby, Levein pointed the finger at Hartley and absolutely slaughtered his performance, in an exchange that has obviously stuck with the former Scotland international.
Speaking to Ferry during the exclusive interview, Hartley recalled: “He [Levein] changed my career.
“He slaughtered me. We played Hibs and got beat 1-0 – big Gaz O’Connor scored in the last minute at Easter Road.
“That was the first time you started doing the video analysis work. I’d never done that after a game.
“We went in on the Monday and we’re all sitting down. The manager’s got a laser pen and the place is in darkness and the full hour was on me.
“He said: ‘You never track back, you’re lazy, you’re not tackling, you’re not working hard enough. You will never, ever play for Hearts again if you have another performance like that. Fucking terrible.
‘I never brought you here for that. Shocking performance. You better get your finger out and you better start working’.
“I actually thought I did alright! I said ‘fucking hell, what’s happened here?’ and for the next six weeks I never played.
“What happened was I had six weeks with the reserves and I just fucking grafted my balls off. I worked and worked and worked and I came back in to the team.
“I went and worked with the fitness coach Tam Ritchie, who thought I was lazy on the first day of pre-season. It wasn’t that I was lazy – I thought I was fit but it wasn’t until I went there that I saw how fit these guys were.
“Hearts were based on hard work and fitness and it was incredible, the training there. Mondays and Tuesdays you never saw the ball at Hearts. It was all running.
“There were times during that six weeks I didn’t know if it was going to work for me.
“The penny dropped that I had to come here and work hard. It didn’t matter that I had a three year contract. If I don’t perform, I’m out the door.
“The manager is fair. He’s a hard taskmaster but he he’s fair. I’ve seen him in the dressing room punching things – I don’t mean players – but tactics boards. He’s very tough, but he’s good.”
What do you think of Hartley’s anecdote, and do you think hammering a player in front of his team-mates is the best way to improve a players’ performances?
Let us know in the comments section below…