Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson reckons Rangers’ return is set to trigger a huge Premiership spending spree – after claiming that the Ibrox club will need a £24 million war chest to challenge Celtic.
Neilson’s Hearts are on course to finish third this term behind the Hoops and Aberdeen but he is desperate to build a side that can consistently compete at the top end of the table.
Speaking before tonight’s scheduled trip to Inverness was postponed due to a sickness bug wiping out eight of his players, Neilson said: “Rangers’ budget at the moment will about about £7 million or £8 million. Celtic’s will be £24 million, maybe.
“It’s a huge divide. So are Rangers going to come in and hit that right away to try to get level with them?
“If they do, it’s going to be hard for the rest of us to compete.
“Mark Warburton is coming up from the Championship and there is a huge gulf between the Championship and playing in the top flight.
“Can Rangers compete for the title right away? I feel it will be very difficult for them.
“I think they’ll need to invest heavily – and I think they will.
“I don’t think we’re too far behind Celtic and Aberdeen but the issue we’ll have in the summer is that with Rangers literally guaranteed to come up – they’ll invest heavily.
“Celtic will invest heavily as well to try and compete so they then take another step away.
“Yes, we came up and we had a go. But we’re still sitting a big distance away from Celtic.
“Rangers will get judged on how they compete with Celtic.
“So, if they want to have a go, they have to come out and spend millions in the summer to get to that level right away.
“It’s up to them if they want to do it. I hope that, if they do go down that route, they’re sensible about it.
“It’s down to Aberdeen to see what they do too. They’ve already got a big difference in budget compared to to us – almost three times as much.”
Foundation of Hearts
Hearts have been boosted by the the additional £1.4 million yearly income from fans group the Foundation of Hearts since exiting administration in 2014 and Neilson has reassured his own supporters that they continue to spend their money wisely.
He added: “We’re still growing as a club and a little bit more strict with our budget. We’ve got a main stand that we’re trying to build, the club came out of administration so we’re a bit more stringent in how we spend our budget.
“We have to try and build a different way as opposed to just chucking money at things.
“I think it’s different here. I don’t think the fans expect us to throw money at the team – because it’s their money.
“They put money in every month, donating huge amounts..
“It’s phenomenal. If I was in their position putting money in every month, I wouldn’t want the manager to be throwing it away.
“So we need to make sure we get the best value for money.
“We don’t have an owner who is going to throw their own fortune at it either.
“Ann Budge came in and was very stringent in what she put in, she’s got a great plan for the club and it’s heading in the right direction.
“But, ultimately, it’s the fans’ money that is driving the club forward. We have to look after that money.”