SAY what you like about Craig Levein – and Hearts fans have said plenty of late – but he comes across as a man utterly unflappable in the midst of a storm.

To sit in front of the Hearts manager earlier this week was to witness someone who could not have looked more relaxed about his predicament had he been lying in a hammock sipping leisurely on a pina colada.

Levein has certainly returned to the dug-out a far more relaxed and tranquil figure, a far cry from his days in charge of the national team, Dundee United or his first spell at Hearts when he looked like he might self-combust through sheer apoplexy at times.

Perhaps this new calmer approach has been shaped by his time away from frontline management, or even by his recent health problems that have helped put life’s trials and tribulations into perspective.

Maybe he isn’t panicking because he genuinely believes his team are simply going through a bit of a blip – a rather long one it has to be said – and that with a few good results they will bound back in to the top half of the table and normal service will be resumed.

He has repeated that mantra so often now over the last few weeks that if he doesn’t actually believe it then he is one helluva actor. It’s all fine. Nothing to see here. Please disperse and return to your homes.

The other possibility is that he isn’t stressing about the fact his team hasn’t won a league game since March going in today’s derby because he knows there won’t be consequences for extended underachievement. Any other manager overseeing such a wretched run of results would not have survived in post this long without at least a warning.

And yet, Levein doesn’t appear to be under any kind of pressure at all. In fact, the Hearts owner Ann Budge in her ellipsis-heavy statement this week felt it more important to take pot shots at those criticising the manager and the club rather than offering any kind of hint that Levein might want to buck up his act.

Of course, having him also installed as director of football does not help. He tiptoed round his dual roles earlier in the week insisting there was no conflict of interest but logic suggests you can’t have the person responsible for hiring and firing managers also being the manager. It’s madness. He’s hardly going to fire himself, is he?

Levein perhaps recognised as much when he described the set-up as “not normal” but also revealed that he won’t abscond from the dug-out until Hearts are in a healthier place. Perhaps they win at Easter Road today and start to climb the table, vindicating his call for patience and allowing him to resign as manager and appoint a successor having survived the turbulence.

But what if things don’t get better? Will he finally have to swallow his pride and resign as manager? Will Budge eventually intervene? It is all very messy and untenable as a long-term strategy.

That Levein has plenty to offer Hearts is a given. Players speak glowingly about the hours he puts in on the training ground but also dealing with a myriad other things, including still meeting parents of aspiring prospects. His commitment is not in question.

But the structure does not work. The director of football can’t also be the manager beyond as a stop-gap arrangement. And given it has now been two years since Ian Cathro was sacked it is fair to say that this has gone beyond an emergency appointment.

Levein means well but it is time for him and Budge to appoint a head coach capable of lifting the team out of this six-month funk, allowing him to return solely to the director of football role. Or alternatively – but less likely – he stays in the dug-out and Hearts appoint someone to the post above him.

Either way, change is necessary. And while Levein may be remaining calm about it all, it would be egotistical not to acknowledge the valid concerns of others regarding the direction the club is heading in.

IS it time to do away with the League Cup? French football took the decision earlier this week to make this the final season of theirs, leaving England as the only “Big Five” nation to still persist with a second domestic cup competition.

Our own version has been revamped more often than a boy racer’s car and there would surely be few mourning its passing were it to be similarly consigned to the dustbin of Scottish football history. With no European place available to the winner since 1995, its primary purpose of late has been to form the first leg of the much sought-after treble.

Betfred’s sponsorship is set to expire next summer meaning perhaps the only objectors to the competition being removed from the calendar would be Premier Sports who have secured the TV rights for the next five seasons. And that, with respect, is hardly a move is likely to catapult the competition back to prominence.

Still, Scottish football is not in a position to be sniffy about any level of investment meaning the competition will endure until 2025 at least. Let’s hope people are still watching by that point.