Hearts boss concedes some players decide to sit tight, despite having no future at the club

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson admits his plans to continue reducing his squad have been hampered by players who are reluctant to leave.

Some nine players have already departed since the end of last season as Neilson attempts to bring the number down to a more manageable size.

Connor Washington, Sean Clare and Uche Ikpeazu are among those who have returned to English football.

Hearts boss and assistants Gordon Forrest and Lee McCulloch at Tynecastle | Hearts news
Neilson with his assistants

After inheriting 32 players when he returned as boss during the summer, former club captain Neilson is not finished with his squad cull.

However, he admits there are players who are happy to stay put, despite being told they are likely to struggle for first team action.

Neilson, speaking to the BBC, said: “We came back and had 32 first team players, there were probably four younger ones and the rest of that they all expected to play every week. 

“It was a case of having to chop it down as mjuch as we could. 

“I prefer to run with 16 senior players and bulk it up with some younger kids. 

“You have a more balanced, happy squad. We still have a way to go to get down to that but we’re moving in the right direction.

“It’s just being honest with players, if you have a conversation with a senior player and say, ‘look, these are my plans this is the reason I’m doing it, you’re not going to get the game time you’d like to get so if an opportunity comes up that you can go I won’t stand in your way’. We managed to move out a few of them.

“Don’t get me wrong there will be players who I’ll have a conversation with who won’t move on then it’s up to us to work with them and get the best out of them. 

“The ones who have left have left on good terms and the ones who are still there that we’ve spoken to are quite happy to train as well.”

Neilson, who has already recruited Craig Gordon, Jordan Roberts, Elliot Frear and Ross Stewart, is also hoping having a smaller squad will provide a pathway for academy prospects to the first team.

He added: “We want to progress the young players as well so we have to give them opportunities but also you don’t want 10, 12, 14 senior players who expect to play every week and are not even making the squad. 

“We felt we had to cut it down to streamline, there is a pathway for the younger ones coming through as well and there’s still a bit of work we’d like to do on it, we’d like to move one or two out and bring a few in as well.” 

 
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