BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists the Jambos return to Europe will bolster his bid to attract top talent to Tynecastle.
The capital club’s forgettable 0-0 draw with Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Tuesday evening was enough to secure Europa League football for next term.
It is a remarkable renaissance for a Hearts side which descended into administration in 2013 and was relegated from the Premiership 12 months later.
And he has no doubt European football will be a massive carrot when the club enter the transfer market.
“The lure of European football definitely helps when it comes to bringing in players. It definitely does,” said Neilson. “It will aid our recruitment process. Players want to come and play in the Europa League.
“To be able to go down to the Championship, get ourselves back out first time and then get European football the next year is really pleasing for us all. But we are always aiming up and taking small steps.
“It’s now just about continuing to progress the club and try and get higher up the league next year.”
And Neilson is refusing to give up on second place in the Premiership, despite admitting a “spectacular” collapse would be required from the Dons.
Derek McInnes’ men lead the Jambos by eight points going into the final five games of the season. The sides cross swords at Pittodrie in the penultimate fixture of the season on May 12.
“We’re definitely still aiming for second,” Neilson continued. “We have five huge games, just as Aberdeen do.
“They are in pole position. They would need to slip up in quite spectacular style for us to get close to them but we’ll keep trying.
“Our next game is against Motherwell and we’ll try to win that one and put a bit of pressure on Aberdeen.”
Meanwhile, Hearts have decided not to appeal against Jamie Walker’s yellow card for diving against the Highlanders.
The in-form winger incurred the wrath of referee Don Robertson after falling to the turf under a challenge from Carl Tremarco, with Neilson initially indicating that he would consider challenging the caution.
Speaking immediately after the fixture, Neilson fumed: ”He didn’t make any indication that he wanted a penalty. There was contact, he goes down.
“It tarnishes the boy’s [Walker] character. If there’s no contact at all, it’s a dive, but when there’s contact made the player goes down.”
Simulation is the only bookable offence which a player can appeal under SFA rules, however the Jambos failed to submit their case before the deadline of 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and the yellow card will stand.