Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson played through Vladimir Romanov turmoil, but admits Dundee United squad could react differently

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Robbie Neilson was part of a Hearts team that was threatened with the axe by madcap owner Vladimir Romanov.

The Lithuanian’s warning that the players would all be for sale if they failed to beat Dunfermline back in October 2006 triggered a statement from the Riccarton Three that revealed ‘significant unrest in the dressing-room’.

vladimirromanov
Romanov (right) was owner when Hearts plunged into administration in 2013

But as head coach Neilson prepares to take his side to Dundee United to face a side that have been publicly condemned by Tannadice chairman Stephen Thompson, the former Hearts defender admits he has no idea how the Premiership basement side will react.

Neilson said: “The chairman has made a statement and he has every right to do that as he puts money into the club.

“Whether he gets a positive or negative reaction, time will tell.

“I don’t know what the dressing-room is like up there so it’s very difficult to say how United will react.

“I went through some difficult periods here but we were lucky that we had a strong dressing-room and that got us through it.

“When the players step across that line on a Saturday, it doesn’t matter what anyone says about them.

“You can talk about what will affect them but on a Saturday, it’s about playing.

“There was a lot of negatives at that time (under Romanov), but at the end of the day he was the owner. It’s the same at Dundee United.

“The owner can say what he wants and you have to accept it.”

Asked if he had sympathy for United counterpart Mixu Paatelainen, whose side are 13 points adrift at the basement following Tuesday’s 3-0 drubbing at home to Motherwell, Neilson replied: “It depends how Mixu spins it when he is in the dressing-room.

“Does he spin it as Mixu and the team? Or as the team itself?

“Mixu is a clever guy and I think he will spin it to get them all onside.”

Hearts and Neilson came in for criticism of their own from fans following Tuesday’s 1-0 Scottish Cup replay at city rivals Hibs but the 35-year-old, who led the club to the Championship title last term with a 21-point winning margin, is refusing to be too downbeat.

He added: “There’s always going to be a backlash from a cup game and especially a derby but you have to accept it. You take it in the chin and you move on.

“We have not had many setbacks and that means when you do get one then it gets blown up, but the players have reacted really well and there’s not really been a period when they have lost focus.”

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