By DARREN JOHNSTONE – Capital City Press
Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander insists Robbie Neilson will only get better as a head coach following his hugely successful maiden campaign in the dugout.
After taking on his first managerial role at Tynecastle last summer, Scotland cap Neilson guided the Gorgie outfit to the Championship title with seven games to spare.
Former Rangers and Cardiff shot-stopper Alexander, who also doubles as the club’s goalkeeping coach, knows Hearts will not get it all their own way back in the top-flight.
But he reckons Neilson will thrive in the fiercely competitive environment of the Premiership.
He said: “I think any manager is always out to prove things, and Robbie has already proved to people what a good manager he is from what he achieved last season.
“He will want to improve and get better – and he will do that with the more experience he gets in the job.
“This will be a new test for him this season, up against better opposition, but I have been so impressed by him as a manager from the minute he walked through the door.
“He is one of the best young managers and coaches I have ever seen in football – and I have been around the game for a long time.
“I really can’t speak highly enough of him. I see a lot of what goes on behind the scenes and how he deals with things, and I have been immensely impressed by him.
“His work ethic, the hours he puts in behind the scenes, his dedication, his methods on the training pitch – all of these are absolutely first-class.
“I have no doubts whatsoever that he is going to go on and become a really top manager one day. He deserves all the plaudits that come his way.
“His attention to detail is so good, he leaves nothing to chance. Before the game, during the game and after the game – he is always looking at ways to improve the team and make us better.”
Alexander, meanwhile, insists he has still got the appetite to play regular first team football at the ripe old age of 37.
The former Scotland internationalist, who made 32 appearances last season, added: “I want to continue as long as I possibly can.
“I feel good right now and I’m sure that my body will tell me when it’s time to chuck it.
“But I’ve had a good rest over the summer. I’ve looked after myself and I’m raring to go.
“My scores have been good in the pre-season fitness tests, so I’m feeling really good.
“I have another year left on my contract, so we will see what happens after that. If I feel that I can still do a job after that, then I will keep playing.
“I’m a coach nowadays, too, so whenever it is time to take a backwards step, then I will focus more on the coaching side of things and accept my role as a number two.”