Former Hearts boss Robbie Neilson gives thumbs up to Ian Cathro appointment as his successor



Robbie Neilson insists Hearts will be in safe hands after Ian Cathro was appointed as his successor at Tynecastle.

And the new MK Dons manager insists he does not plan to make Newcastle United assistant manager Cathro’s job harder by coming back to plunder the Hearts squad.

Neilson was was officially paraded to the media at stadium MK yesterday afternoon after deciding to leave Gorgie following a successful two-and-a-half years in charge.

robbieneilsonNewcastle United assistant manager Cathro, who has also worked with Valencia and Rio Ave, was named as his replacement in Gorgie on Monday night.

At just 30-years of age and having never played professional senior football, doubts have been raised over former Dundee United youth coach Cathro’s credentials but Neilson is excited by his arrival.

Neilson, who masterminded Hearts’ record-breaking Championship triumph in 2015 and left with the team sitting third in the Premiership, said: “I know Ian personally and I think it’s a really good appointment.

“I think he’s progressive, he’s gone out and been educated in Portugal and in Spain. He’s come back and he’s learning under Rafa Benitez, a Champions League winner and it doesn’t come any better than that.

“Hearts took the chance with me, I didn’t have any experience as a manager either, I had a playing career but a playing career means nothing at all. It’s a totally different ball game.

“People say you have to have played the game to manage at the top level, you don’t.

“You have to be able to have a personality to manage players, whether you’ve played 100 games in the Champions League or you’ve played 5-a-side football on a Tuesday.

“I think the players would respect Ian, we’ve got a really good group there.

“It’s also about your understanding of the game and Ian has top level understanding, and that’s been proven with his track record.

“He’s been involved in La Liga and the Champions League. It’s another step in Hearts’ journey and I’m really excited about it for Hearts.

“I think it’s a great appointment and hopefully they can progress again.”

Neilson insists he will not be going back to raid Tynecastle for players, because the likes of Callum Paterson, Jamie Walker, Bjorn Johnsen and Arnaud Djoum are all out of his price range.

He added: “The calibre of player we’ve got a Hearts, they’ve had a lot of exposure.

“Callum Paterson is an international football player, there are Premier League teams interested and top-end Championship teams interested in him, as it is with a lot of the players in the Hearts team, so it takes them out our remit.

“My job here is to source players similar to that and give them the platform we did at Hearts, the likes of Djoums, (Osman) Sows, Johnsens.”

Neilson has been joined south of the border by Hearts assistant Stevie Crawford and will be in the MK Dons dugout for the first time in tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy clash Yeovil.

And the highly-rated young manager admits he sounded out Sir Alex Ferguson about the League One side and chairman Pete Winkelman before completing his move at the tail end of last week.

Neilson added: “Alex Smith at Falkirk is a kind of mentor to me, he took me under his wing at Falkirk and helped me as a coach and he is always there as a sounding board for advice.

“When the MK Dons job came up, I wanted to do my homework and make sure it was the right one.

“I knew the history of the club although I didn’t know the chairman personally.

“I knew Alex Smith had a strong friendship with Sir Alex and asked if he would ask the question, does he think it’s the right club and is the chairman a good guy that I can trust and will give me time?

“Alex said the first thing that Sir Alex said was, ‘100 per cent, take it, the chairman is different class and it’s a great set-up’.

“That confirmed my first thoughts that it was the right club for me.”

Neilson admits chairman Winkelman’s reputation for giving manager’s time was a huge factor in joining a club that are 19th in League One.

Neilson’s predecessor Karl Robinson spent over six years at the helm.

Neilson added: “You have to look behind the league position, you have to look at it deeper and the potential here is phenomenal.

“It ticks all the boxes, the only box that it doesn’t tick is the position they’re in but it’s my job to get them out of there and move them forward to where they should be.

“I think they’ve got the potential to get to the top-flight.”