Robbie Neilson delighted with Tynecastle plans – after fearing that Murrayfield move would have broken Hearts



Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson was a player when the club faced the distressing prospect of selling Tynecastle and groundsharing at the cavernous Murrayfield stadium 12 years ago.

So, the 36-year-old joined the supporters in heaving a collective sigh of relief when the City of Edinburgh Council granted planning permission on Wednesday for a new £12 million main stand at their spiritual home.

Then owner Chris Robinson’s plan to sell the ground to house builder Cala for £22 million and become tenants at the home of Scottish Rugby provoked a furious backlash from fans.

tynecastleAs a player, Neilson had no choice but to tow the party line, but having played in the 67,500 capacity Murrayfield in a UEFA Cup tie against Braga that attracted just over 18,000 supporters in 2004, deep down – he had grave reservations about the switch.

For all of Vladimir Romanov’s flaws, the Lithuanian’s takeover halted that move before his own extravagant £51 million stadium redevelopment plans were kicked into touch.

Now, with the shrewd Ann Budge at the helm, over a decade of uncertainty surrounding Tynecastle has been brought to an end.

“You never want to leave Tynecastle because of the atmosphere,” remarked Neilson, whose side host Dundee tomorrow in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

“I remember we played European games at Murrayfield, and it was a different atmosphere – it was difficult.

“We had a couple of games that we got 20-odd thousand but it seemed like you had 5,000 compared to Tynecastle.

“It’s important, you look at West Ham, who had a great season last year and then they moved to the Olympic Stadium and they’re struggling this year.

“You lose that identity, the fans lose the identity and you lose home advantage for quite a few seasons until you get it back again.

“It’s always been spoken about, leaving Tynecastle because of the position and size of it but the work that everyone has done, Ann, the board, the Foundation and the fans to get us in a position that we can stay where we are and develop the stand is great.”

Robbie Neilson RiccartonThe proposed 7,300 seater new enclosure, which is expected to be ready by September 2017, will increase the ground’s capacity to just over 20,000 and Neilson admits the redevelopment will also have a positive effect on money that is set aside for the playing staff.

He added: “From the commercial and corporate side of it, it will definitely help the turnover of the club, which then benefits the budget of the first team and then you can start developing more on that side of it.

“The only downside now is that the away dressing room will be a decent size instead of being a cupboard.

“We spoke right at the start when we were putting the plans together and we’ve had a few meetings about what we feel we need.

“There will be warm-up areas, physio areas. It’s what all the new stadia have nowadays and we’ve not had it.”

Neilson, meanwhile, insists he was happy with right-back Callum Paterson’s Scotland performances even though the country’s World Cup qualifying hopes suffered a damaging blow in a draw with Lithuania and 3-0 defeat to Slovakia during the international break.

Neilson added: “I thought he did well in the two games, for a young player making his first few steps into international football, I thought he did well.

“He’s playing against some good players and he performed well. He really enjoyed being away last time and I’m sure he would have enjoyed this.

“As a football player, you generally look at your own performance and think, ‘how did I do?’

“If the team do well and you do well, then fantastic. If the team don’t do well but you do, then you say: ‘I did all right’, and it’s a positive.”


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