BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson insists the Old Firm’s high-profile summer arrivals can only help boost clubs like his own in the transfer market.
Branding the sale of nearly 14,000 season-tickets for the new season ‘phenomenal’, Neilson has been able to act swiftly to tie up new recruits as his squad prepares to return for pre-season training today.
With a Europa League first-round qualifier just over a fortnight away, the Gorgie outfit have snapped up Robbie Muirhead, Conor Sammon and Faycal Rherras and, having been linked with Matt Gilks following Neil Alexander’s departure, are keen to add a new goalkeeper.
And Neilson believes the publicity being generated by Celtic’s appointment of former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers and Rangers’ capture of the boastful Joey Barton will be of benefit to the rest of Scottish football.
He said: “Celtic have got Brendan Rodgers in, Rangers have gone and got Joey Barton. It lifts the whole profile of the league and I think it also helps teams like ourselves.
“It generates publicity for the league. More fans want to come, more players want to come.
“I think it is going in the right direction.
“Selling 14,000 season tickets is phenomenal, isn’t it? The fans have backed us these last two years since we came out of administration. The Foundation of Hearts money has been coming in and sustaining the club and helping build a new stand.
“It’s getting to the stage now where we might need to start a waiting list for tickets. It’s great. You want that backing. You want a full house at Tynecastle.”
Meanwhile, Neilson has branded the capture of Moroccan defender Rherras ‘quite a coup’ after Hearts confirmed the youngster’s arrival and the signing of former Kilmarnock striker Sammon.
Completion of three-year deals for the duo came just 24 hours after youngster Muirhead became the club’s first signing of the summer on a one-year contract.
Crucially, the paperwork for all three has been pushed through in time to meet the deadline for the club’s Europa League qualifiers, which begin on June 30.
Neilson, whose squad gather for the start of pre-season training today (Wednesday), said: “I’m delighted to get both players to Tynecastle.
“Conor brings a lot of experience to the squad. He knows the Scottish game well after a successful period at Kilmarnock and has played at the highest level down in England.”
Rherras was born in Liege in Belgium but has featured for Morocco at under-23 level and the left-back has been a regular for two years with Sint-Truiden, who finished 13th in the Belgian top-flight last season.
Neilson added: “Faycal is a player with real potential and will be a big boost to the defence.
“He’s played at a good level in Belgium and has been involved in the Moroccan international scene so it’s quite a coup to get him.
“Both players will add a lot to the squad and I’m looking forward to working with them.”