He is a good, thoughtful, imposing football manager, a student of the game whose track record made him a prime target for the Scotland manager's job.
In December 2009, I was among a throng of people who believed he was a good choice as George Burley's successor. And I'm not embarrassed to admit I phoned Levein, whom I had always found civil and helpful, to gush my congratulations to him on his appointment.
The evidence for Levein's ability was impressive. From the word go, he had improved the clubs he had worked at, starting at Cowdenbeath, who he transformed from a shambling wreck into promotion material, and then to dramatic progress at Hearts, where he posted two successive third-place finishes in the SPL.
Levein's move to Leicester City, who fired him after 15 months, can hardly count, given the financial implosion which engulfed that club. But, back on track at Dundee United, where he went in December 2006, quickly garnering manager of the month awards, it was soon obvious his talent had not dissipated.
After their years of misery Levein restored United as a top-six club, took them back to a Hampden cup final, and had them flying in the SPL's top three when the SFA came calling.
Some quibbled at the time that Levein hadn't won any trophies – as if Hearts or Dundee United were meant to be racking up titles – but most were of the view that he was a good, proven manager.
All well and good. Given all this, some of us will remain Craig Levein admirers. However, you don't need much foresight to know there is a large "but" homing into view.
Levein and Scotland have just been bruised by two poor opening performances in their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. Levein affects not to be burdened by this, but he is not stupid.
He is an intelligent guy and will be depressed by the bereft performance of his team in drawing 0-0 with Serbia and 1-1 with Macedonia (a lucky 1-1 for Scotland). These two results have left Scotland already hobbling in their Group A campaign and have rightly shifted an intense spotlight on to Levein's decision-making. It is hard to avoid concluding that, on all available evidence, where once he succeeded, now he is failing.
No-one is being glib when they talk about Serbia and Macedonia. No right-minded person believes either team should have been a pushover, the soccer riches of the former Yugoslavia have historically been too abundant for that.
Nonetheless, these two games represented classic opportunities for Levein to show an expectant Tartan Army what his much- trumpeted progress in his 30 months in charge was all about. "We are miles better today than we were two years ago – I know we are," Levein had said. Naturally, there was excitement at the prospect of seeing some of the evidence for this in the new campaign.
Instead, Scotland fans witnessed a plodding, teething, unsure team, and one with an alarming incapacity to actually get up the pitch in any numbers against Serbia. Levein, I believe, was privately pretty numb last Saturday night.
Three days later his readjusted starting XI – with such strange selections as Shaun Maloney playing as a central midfielder – were like strangers trying to get going against Macedonia. Cedomir Janevski's team were denied three times by Allan McGregor, thudded a shot against a post, and missed two other decent chances. Levein's team, by contrast, could only be roused in fits and starts.
Levein, having been praised often in his career, is now rightly copping much flak. His much-preached "progress, progress" with his players has been made to look like a cruel illusion, even a self-delusion. Worse for him is that, in relative terms, he has quite a decent pool of players from which to choose, including a healthy smattering – indeed half of his squad – from the English Premier League.
Of course, it is also about players he hasn't selected. Levein will never live down the fact that, in a desperate age for Scotland, when two strikers, Steven Fletcher and Jordan Rhodes, worth £22 million between them, were available to him, he started with neither. There is no justifying it.
Anyone who thinks Levein is being treated harshly needs to look at the cold facts and figures. It is unnerving to think of the way Berti Vogts and George Burley were both lampooned and run out of town as Scotland managers, when you compare their records with that of Levein to date.
Vogts actually has a superior success rate in qualifying games, at 48.8%. Levein's competitive record with Scotland is currently 43.3%. Burley, who received a media lynching, is only just behind on 42%.
What does this tell us? Do the bare facts lie? Vogts and Burley were viewed as failures – yet Levein's record is no better. The truth is, on the field, he is making next to no headway at all.
Next month will determine his fate. From games away to Wales and Belgium, the Scotland manager needs at least four points from six to somehow keep his hopes alive. At best, I think he could get three: a beating of Wales followed by a defeat to Belgium.
Even that super-optimistic scenario would sum everything up about Levein and Scotland: shambling along in the flabby midriff of the group while going nowhere, and certainly not to Rio in 2014.
I doubt Scotland will get out of this Group A mire, and I doubt Levein will be in his job for much longer. From what we have seen so far, there is negligible evidence for thinking this manager and this team might come good.
Levein has been a success in the past. Right now he looks a failure.
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