BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts have been handed a major boost after head coach Robbie Neilson and his assistant Stevie Crawford extended their contracts until 2018.
Neilson, who started his coaching career as number two to Gary Naysmith at East Fife in 2013, has enjoyed largely unmitigated success since he was promoted from Hearts under-20s boss to the top job at Tynecastle in the summer of 2014.
Working with director of football Craig Levein, the 33-year-old guided the Jambos to the Championship title in his first campaign in management, beating Rangers and Hibernian to the title and setting a record points total for the second tier of 91.
And, despite a recent wobble, Hearts have thrived on their return to the top-flight, sitting third in the Premiership – eight points ahead of Ross County with two games in hand over the Highlanders – and are firmly on course for a Europa League place.
Former Scotland and Hibs forward Crawford, 42, also joined Hearts in 2014 following a spell as assistant boss at Falkirk.
Hearts owner Ann Budge told Hearts News: “I am very pleased to have secured Robbie and Stevie’s services for the next two seasons, as we continue to build for the future.
“This is a win-win for everyone; the club, the players and the supporters. By continuing to pull together, I am confident we will all achieve our goals.”
Neilson, who represented Hearts 249 times as a player over 13 years before stints with Leicester, Brentford, Dundee United and Falkirk, insists he still has plenty of developing to do and hopes the best is yet to come in his coaching career.
Neilson said: “Stevie [Crawford] and I are very happy to have extended our contracts. We are both young coaches with a lot to learn, and while we’ve enjoyed some real success, we want to deliver more for the supporters.”