BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ROBBIE NEILSON will be formally appointed Milton Keynes Dons manager on Friday after the League One club agreed a compensation package with Hearts for their head coach and assistant Stevie Crawford.
Neilson and Crawford will travel to England to complete the formalities of the switch and are likely to be in the stand for Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Charlton Athletic.
The 36-year-old replaces Karl Robinson, who was afforded six years in charge of MK Dons, leading them to the Championship during the 2014/15 campaign. However, he left the club by mutual consent in October after seven defeats in 15 league fixtures.
Newcastle first-team coach Ian Cathro is the clear front-runner to replace Neilson in the Tynecastle hot-seat, however Magpies boss Rafa Benitez was adamant that no approach has yet been made for the 30-year-old.
A Hearts statement read: “The club can confirm that we have agreed terms with Milton Keynes Dons FC in relation to Head Coach Robbie Neilson and Assistant Head Coach Stevie Crawford.
“Ann Budge, the Board of Directors and everyone at Heart of Midlothian Football Club would like to sincerely thank Robbie and Stevie for the enormous part they have played in helping to re-establish the club in the upper echelons of Scottish football.
“The record-breaking 2014-15 Championship-winning season, which secured our promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking, will long live in the memory of Hearts supporters, as will the highly impressive third-place finish and the return to European football which was achieved the following season.
“They leave us in an enviable position, sitting second in the Premiership table with a healthy playing squad, rich with talent and promise. We wish them every success in their new challenge with Milton Keynes Dons FC.
“We will now begin the formal process of recruiting a new Head Coach and Assistant Head Coach.
“A further statement confirming interim arrangements for our game against Ross County on Saturday, will be released [on Friday] morning.”
Neilson took charge of Hearts in May 2014 after Ann Budge rescued the club from administration and swept to power, replacing Gary Locke as head coach and appointing Levein as director of football.
His maiden season in the dugout was an unmitigated success, winning the Ladbrokes Championship with a record points total of 91 ahead of Rangers and Hibernian.
In their return to the top-flight, Hearts secured European football by finishing in third spot behind Celtic and Aberdeen, albeit their Europa League campaign ended in ignominy with defeat against Maltese minnows Birkirkara this term.
Neilson leaves the club sitting in second place in the Premiership, albeit having played two games more than Aberdeen.