HEARTS boss Craig Levein has branded Chris Sutton’s criticism of Kyle Lafferty as "silly" after the outspoken pundit labelled the in-demand striker "a nutter".

The former Celtic striker made the comment earlier this week when asked about Rangers’ interest in the Northern Irishman during a media event to promote BT Sport’s upcoming coverage of the SPFL Premiership.

Sutton also called Lafferty a "ticking time-bomb" who could cause unrest during a period of stability at Ibrox.

While Levein was keen not to become embroiled in a war of words with Sutton, with whom he enjoys a positive relationship, he believes the Englishman’s criticism was ill-judged.

"I'm sure Chris [Sutton] will regret that,” said Levein.

“I think it was just a little bit silly. I don't want to get involved much more, other than to say that.

“Chris is a decent guy and I'm sure he maybe regrets saying that. My view is that, when he looks at it again, he will think it was a wee bit silly to get involved.

"Since Kyle has been here, I've had a brilliant relationship with him. His professionalism has been there and he was good when he came on last Sunday [against Inverness] and was unlucky not to get a couple of goals.”

Levein revealed that Hearts have held informal discussions with Rangers chiefs this week, but no advance on the Ibrox club's initial £200,000 bid has been forthcoming.

As such, Lafferty – who was by the side of his wife Vanessa yesterday as she prepares to give birth – is expected to be in the Hearts squad that lines up for their Premiership opener against Hamilton tomorrow afternoon.

“I've had a couple of chats with people at Rangers this week but without there being any other development,” continued Levein. “The thing isn't dead, but the offer that was made is not good enough.

“This sort of thing happens at every club all the time but it seems to cause more of a fuss with Kyle than anybody else. It is the normal course of things. There seems to be more interest – and I assume it’s because Rangers are involved.

“Kyle is alright. He has been off with his wife due to give birth. He will be in a good place because of that, I'm sure, and he'll be back in training. I plan on him being involved on Saturday.”

One man who does appear destined for the Tynecastle exit door is Don Cowie, who is weighing up his options after Hearts accepted an approach for his services.

The 35-year-old has been informed that his first-team opportunities will be limited this season following the arrivals of Oliver Bozanic, Olly Lee, Ryan Edwards and Peter Haring’s emergence as a defensive-midfield enforcer.

While in no rush to force the former Scotland international out, Levein will not stand in the player’s way.

“Don has been made a good offer from elsewhere,” continued Levein, with Ross County strongly linked with an interest in Cowie.

“I went to Don with it and said ‘here is something you might be interested in’. If he stays then I am delighted, and if he goes then I am delighted for him. It’s a straight-forward situation for me and I have no anxiety either way.

“There is much more competition this year and, as much as he has been a brilliant player for us, the likelihood is he will not have as much game time.

“When someone is getting into the dusk of their career and he wants to play every week, then I’m comfortable with him going somewhere else to do that, if that’s what he wants.”

Ahead of their league curtain-raiser in North Lanarkshire, Levein added: "I feel worried, which I like, because any time in the past when I’ve thought 'this feels good, we’ve got this nailed', it has been a disaster! I like to be worried."