So now, after the Scotland manager has in effect backed down over the Steven Fletcher impasse, it is time to cut Levein some slack.
In recalling Fletcher to the Scotland squad for this month’s World Cup double-header, Levein has had to swallow a lot of pride in public.
After all, this is what we all levelled at him: that he was too proud, too aloof to be seen to give in to the public rabble which wanted the Sunderland striker recalled as a matter of urgency.
There is no doubt that Levein has been stubborn in this whole Fletcher rumpus. Having been informed via a text to an SFA official 18 months ago that Fletcher no longer wanted to play for Scotland – it was no classy act by the player himself – Levein appeared to go in a huff, insisting the ball was no longer in his court on the Fletcher row.
Whatever else you thought of the mess, this claim by Levein simply wasn’t true. The ball is always in an international manager’s court in terms of selecting a player, even if it means going and beseeching him to come and pull on his country’s colours again.
My beef with Levein was always this: yes, there is a principle at work which says that a player needs to show respect to a coach, a team, a cause. It was a standard which Fletcher blatantly flouted.
But for Levein, as manager of Scotland, a greater principle should have applied: the one which says, come what may, even if it means self-sacrifice, you make sure you put the best possible team on the park for the country at large.
For the past 12 months, Levein hasn’t lived up to that principle. As out of order as Fletcher was, Levein should have fixed this, and put his team - not himself - first.
The deed is now done, thank goodness. And Levein – let’s give him his due – in his own words has even said he had to back down to get Fletcher back.
“The longer I thought about it, I thought we were in a situation where nobody was winning,” he said. “So I bit the bullet, phoned Fletcher for a chat, and everything is resolved.”
Whether Levein was backed into a corner or not by the striker’s recent scoring splurge for Sunderland, these are the words of a coach prepared to eat humble pie in public.
I have no doubt that Martin O’Neill, the Sunderland manager, who knows Levein, had a hand in this reconciliation. But who cares who made which call first, or which third party was involved. The fact remains, this is a very visible climbdown by Craig Levein. But good on him, I say.
The critics will claim it is too little too late – and they may be right. Levein has made a fist of Scotland’s two opening World Cup qualifiers against Serbia and Macedonia, making a mockery of his much-proclaimed progress reports.
Fletcher, in his current form, would probably have made a difference in at least one of those drawn matches, and maybe in both. We just don’t know. But it seems to this observer that much damage has already been done.
Levein’s team faces Wales in Cardiff next week and then Belgium in Brussels four days later. The Scotland manager needs a minor miracle to save Scotland’s qualifying campaign and, in effect, save his job. What an irony it will be if Steven Fletcher rides to his country’s rescue in one of those matches.
I’ve always been a Levein fan, but it has been impossible to gloss over his errors. Sometimes a natural caution can work – it did with Craig Brown and Scotland – but other times it fails, as it has done with Levein. Over 4-6-0 in Prague and this Fletcher saga, he has been his own worst enemy.
At the 11th hour Levein has suddenly gone all conciliatory. Let’s now see if he can do what matters most of all – win.