Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson relishing derby clash but admits focus has to remain on Premiership



Robbie Neilson’s focus is on collecting three points today against ‘Scotland’s in-form team’, however, the Hearts head coach acknowledges that the Scottish Cup clash with Hibernian is already at the forefront of the supporters’ thoughts.

The Edinburgh sides were paired together in Monday’s fifth round draw, with the tie to be televised at Tynecastle on February 7.

But with Premiership matches against Motherwell, Hamilton and Inverness to negotiate before that mouth-watering tussle, Neilson is adamant that his squad will not be distracted in their bid to catch second place Aberdeen.

The Edinburgh derby has been absent in the league this season with Hibs in the Championship

“It’s a great draw,” admitted Neilson, who won the competition with Hearts in 2006.

“It definitely ignites the imagination of everyone.

“It will be a home game, sell-out, on television, full house. It’s a great one to be involved in.

“To be able to do this is great, it’s going to be the biggest game in Edinburgh for a year.

“But we need to concentrate on our game at the weekend against a team that are probably the inform team in Scotland so we can’t take our eye off the ball.

“We’ve got three tough games before it against Motherwell, Hamilton on the astro, which is always difficult, and then we go to Inverness against the Scottish Cup holders.

“So it’s three difficult games before we think about the Hibs games.

“As a coaching staff, we’ll starting looking at it but the players have to focus on the next game.”

Neilson’s Hibs counterpart Alan Stubbs has indulged in what has been perceived as mind games with Rangers manager Mark Warburton as those clubs vie for the Championship title, but the Hearts head coach does not plan to take any bait cast his way in the build up to the derby.

“If Alan wants to do it it’s up to him,” insists Neilson.

“It’s starting to get like boxing matches sometimes before big games and I think eventually we’re going to have managers in doing press conferences together before it.

“It’s quite entertaining and, to be honest, it built the whole hype up and made everyone talk about it.

“You got a full house at Ibrox and you had everyone talking about it. If that’s what he wants to do, that’s what he wants to do.”

Hearts host a Motherwell team that have been transformed under manager Mark McGhee, the Steelmen having won four of their last five matches in all competition.

Experienced Scotland coach McGhee is also bidding to mark his 900th match in the dugout with victory today.

“It’s some achievement to get 900,” remarked Neilson. “I’ve been really impressed with Motherwell.

“I’ve watched a lot of them this week and you can see exactly what he’s done since he’s come in.”


Neilson, meanwhile, confirmed his interest in talking Southampton striker Sam Gallagher on loan this month.

The 20-year-old, who has switched his allegiance to England having initially been capped at Scotland Under-19 level, recently returned to the Saints following a temporary spell with MK Dons.

Neilson added: “He’s a player that I like but ultimately it’s down to Southampton to decide what his next step is.

“Sam has done well at MK Dons (on loan) and we’d like to get him but I’d expect his next step to be the English Championship.”