BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists he relishing the prospect of a trip to Hampden after after refusing to back down from his assessment of controversial referee Willie Collum.
Following the Jambos’ 3-2 defeat against Hamilton three weeks ago which saw Callum Paterson sent off for a challenge on Darian McKinnon, Neilson revealed that his team had trained with 10 men in the build-up to the fixture due to Collum’s disciplinarian style.
He stated: “We actually practised during the week going down to 10 men because of the environment we’re coming to and the officials who are taking the game and we have to do that.
“In the recent past, the statistics involving the officials have shown a lot of red cards against us, so we have to prepare for it. The next time we get these officials, we will again train with 10 men.”
The capital club won their appeal against the dismissal after Neilson, Paterson and director of football Craig Levein stated their case at the national stadium.
However, SFA compliance officer Tony McGlennan still charged the Hearts boss with implying “bias or incompetence” with his post-match comments.
Hearts will vociferously protest Neilson’s innocence at the hearing on October 1, believing that outlining one referee’s red card record does not imply bias or incompetence. Statistics show Collum has dismissed nine Hearts players in 36 games.
Neilson, speaking about the charge for the first time, smiled: “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been a couple of times and the tea is good, the sandwiches are good!
“We will see what they have to say. I will stand by what I said, I won’t be taking anything back because what I said is what I believe.
“Whether they want to interpret one way or the other is up to them.
“Tony [McGlennan] is a decent guy and he thinks he can carry it through but we don’t so we will see where that takes us.”
Inverness manager John Hughes declared he had lost faith in Scottish referees after being charged for his own comments about Andrew Dallas following a recent match between the Highlanders and Dundee.
Dunfermline boss Allan Johnston similarly expressed concern about the standard of officiating in Scotland after losing captain Callum Fordyce and Ryan Williamson to broken legs – following tackles which were not even deemed fouls.
However, Neilson does not agree that there is a widespread problem with the quality of Scottish referees.
He continued: “I think there are loads of really good referees, I really do. Bobby [Madden], taking the game on Sunday, is one of the best we have got.
“I think we’ve got a good batch of referees, just some maybe need a bit of help.”
Meanwhile, Neilson has confirmed that Belgian trialist Arnaud Djoum has impressed in training this week – however there is no chance he will be signed in time to face Aberdeen.
The former FC Brussels, Anderlecht, Roda JC and Lech Poznan man is currently a free agent, so could arrive out-with the transfer window, and would fit the bill in terms of adding depth and physicality to Hearts’ midfield pool.
He continued: “I’ll make a decision on him on Saturday.
“He’s done okay. Fitness-wise he’s probably not where he should be because he’s not had a club for a while but he moved to Holland and did well there. He got a move to Lech Poznan but didn’t get a chance there.
“He’s had a couple of offers from smaller European countries but wants to go to a so-called bigger league. It’ll come down to finances at the end of the day.
“There’s no chance of him playing against Aberdeen because we’d need to get international clearance and that takes three or four days.”