Hooked at half-time in a Dundee United defeat and publicly shamed by his manager.
Back in November, Dylan Levitt found himself in uncharted territory. After the Welsh midfielder was subbed off against Motherwell, Tannadice gaffer Liam Fox labelled his performance “poor”.
And he told Levitt – in no uncertain terms – that he expected better. To be fair to the former Manchester United youngster, he has given his boss the response he was looking for. The 22-year-old admits he was at a low ebb amidst a run of ropey United displays earlier this season. But a call-up for Wales’ World Cup squad heading to Qatar was the perfect pick-me-up. Levitt didn’t get on the pitch for Rob Page’s side during the tournament. But training every day with the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey lifted his spirits. And he’s now getting back to his best at Tannadice.
Fox will need him today for the visit of champions Celtic. Levitt reckons the boot from his manager a few months ago was exactly what he needed. And after experiencing the greatest show on earth with Bale & Co he’s ready to kick on again.
He said: “It was a turning point. After that, I scored and assisted in our next two games. And his words definitely played a part. It was the reaction he wanted.
“It wasn’t great to hear but I had to take it as a positive in that he knows how good I am as a player. I knew I could be performing better myself. At that time, every player could have been doing more. But I wasn’t feeling myself. Confidence plays a massive part in that.
“I wasn’t competing at the best level I could but that happens when you’re not getting results or performing as a team.
“It’s the first time I’ve had a manager give me a kick up the backside like that, publicly anyway. But I took it well and I’ve bounced back.
“Getting called up for the World Cup played a massive part in lifting my confidence.It was only a few weeks after that dressing down I found out I was going. And in the games before Qatar, I managed to turn it round.”
Levitt was on the bench for Wales’ games against England, the USA and Iran before Page’s side bowed out. The tournament gave Levitt a chance to reflect and recharge – as well as train with some top talent.
He said: “Training in that environment shows you what you need every day to reach that level. Training with players of that calibre was amazing. And Gareth is the type of captain who will speak to you.
“Wales isn’t just a national team – it’s a family. From my first couple of camps, I found out it’s not just about football. It’s about being a squad on and off the pitch. That togetherness is so important. As a young player you look up to the role models and they help you.
“The World Cup was an amazing experience but I’ve been back for a month or so and I’ve picked up a bit of form
now. I’ve had time in training to turn round the little bump in the road I had before Qatar.
“Coming back here from the biggest tournament in the world, you have to turn your mindset around. I have to bring all the positives from the World Cup back to Dundee United.”
United’s last home game against Celtic was a disaster, a record 9-0 defeat in August that left Levitt mentally scarred. But at Parkhead in the reverse fixture, he scored a wonderful goal to make it 2-2 late on – only for the Hoops to win 4-2 in injury-time.
The Welsh playmaker has the ability to play at a higher level – or for a club the size of Rangers or Celtic. That’s why he feels the need to produce his best stuff against Glasgow’s big two.
He said: “You have to test yourself in every game – but especially against the Old Firm. If you’re not bang on it, you’ll get punished like we were at the start of the season. When you’re not at it then it shows.
“Everyone knows what we have to do this time around. The 9-0 defeat to Celtic hasn’t been mentioned at all in the past week.
“That game affected me mentally. It was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had after a game.
“I’ve never been beaten by that much. Coming off the pitch and hearing all the criticism on social media, it wasn’t great to see. But you have to turn it around and lift yourself.
“It’s a good challenge for me to come up against some of their players. That’s what I like. They push you to the limits but that’s what I want. It’s good for everyone because it shows you where you are as a team.”