Returning Hearts boss Robbie Neilson speaks on a range of topics after being unveiled to the media


ROBBIE NEILSON was officially unveiled to the media on Monday after returning as Hearts manager last month.

The ex-Dundee United and MK Dons boss discussed a range of topics, from Aaron Hickey’s future to whether he regrets leaving the post back in 2016.

Here are some of the key takeaways.


Hearts’ court battle:

“To be honest, even when I was at United, I didn’t take a lot of interest in the case – on either side of it. It’s the same here. The club in the background are dealing with the court case and the arbitration. It’s over my head, what goes on – and what will be, will be. My job, what I’m here to do, is to take care of players on the pitch and the training pitch.”

Asked if he was planning for life in the Championship:

“I’m just planning for getting the players back in and trying to get a date for that. Whether that will be Championship or Premiership, we’ll wait and see. I think, in the next week or two, we’ll get clarity on that. If it goes our way, it’s going to be very difficult to get the players ready in time. If it doesn’t, we just have to deal with it.”

Use feeling of injustice to motivate everyone:

“It’s important that all the Hearts fans unite together with the players and everyone at the club, to move forward – whether that’s in the top flight or the Championship. We’ve got to use this as motivation to go and win games again.”

What went wrong at Hearts last season:

“I think it was a chaotic year, to be honest. There were a lot of changes in the squad and also on the managerial side, in the coaching set up. There were a lot of alterations to formations, tactics, everything. For me it’s about getting back to a bit of stability and organisation.”

Is a different manager second time round?:

“I’m more experienced as a manager. I’ve managed a lot more games than when I was first here.”

Some Hearts fans turning on him last time:

“It was something I missed when I went down to England, to be honest. I missed the intensity of it and the pressure of it. I went down to MK, which was a great club with great people, but there was no pressure on myself and no pressure on the players. I found it quite difficult. We would be losing a game 1-0 and nobody cared. As long as you clapped the fans, everybody was happy. I missed the intensity.”

Interest in Sam Nicholson

“He is one we are interested in but I think there will be a lot of interest in Sam. There is already a lot of interest down south in him. We will have a chat with him and see where it goes.”

Christophe Berra:

“I know Christophe well obviously. I’ve played with him and known him for a long time. For me he’s a leader. He had issues the last time here but it’s a fresh start for everyone to come back in pre-season and he can try and get himself in the team.”

Craig Gordon:

“Craig’s a massive one for us. He understands the club, the fans and the demands of the club. He’s also, in my opinion, probably one of the best goalkeepers in Scotland. We’ve managed to get him and it’ll give us a great foundation to build off. If you’re going to push hard and even win leagues, you have to have a truly good back four and a really good goalkeeper. I think we’ve got that in place.”

Aaron Hickey

“I expect interest but my hope is that he comes back to pre-season. My hope is that he plays for us over the season and we can tie him down to a longer deal. He’s still a young kid and he still needs to develop. This is a great place for him to develop. Those will be conversations we have with him in the coming weeks and we’ll see how it goes. We want to keep hold of our best players and Aaron comes into that category.”

Working with a sporting director:

“Definitely. Ann and I have spoken about it already but the court case has kind of taking over in the last couple of weeks. We were interviewing a couple of weeks ago and from my perspective, I like working with a sporting director. I think it’s important. It takes a lot of the load away from me and that’s important for a Saturday to get the team prepared.”

Regret leaving:

“If I hadn’t left then I wouldn’t be coming back in as the manager I am now. The experience I’ve got, I’ve managed now for a number of years against a number of good managers in different leagues. I’ve been successful and made a lot of good contacts with different types of people and different types of players. I come back into the job a far, far better coach and far, far better manager than I was six or seven years ago.”

New players:

“I think I need to add some pace to the team in the wide areas. We’ve got some good young players in those positions but I think they need some assistance and a bit of experience. So we’ll be looking for players in the wide areas that can really eliminate people. We’re probably looking at three or four players maximum.”

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