Robbie Neilson backs Ann Budge pragmatic approach

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ROBBIE NEILSON has welcomed the pragmatic approach of Hearts owner Ann Budge regarding financial matters and the return of supporters, insisting that is preferable to the gung-ho strategies of certain other clubs.

Budge painted a pessimistic picture for Scottish football when she addressed the assembled media on Wednesday, suggesting that around three years of belt-tightening will be required before the Jambos are back to pre-pandemic prosperity.

She also posited that fans may not be back in stadiums in any great number before the tail-end of 2021, with capacity crowds remaining a pipe-dream until the 2022/23 campaign.

A stony-faced Ann Budge gives an interview | Hearts news
Hearts owner Ann Budge

While acutely aware that targets and timeframes are fluid during the Covid crisis, Neilson has no problem with the Tynecastle chief planning for the worst while hoping for the best.

He said: “It’s important to take a long-term view. A number of teams — certainly last summer — took a short-term view on hoping there would be full houses within two or three months in October.

“That hasn’t panned out and you’re seeing a lot of them now having financial problems.

“We always took the view that there would be no fans until the end of the season and, the way things are going, I still don’t see full houses coming in for the start of next season. It’ll be a while before we get that.

“Everyone should be tightening their purse strings this summer to make sure they don’t get caught out.”

Budge also found herself asked whether Neilson was safe in his position as head coach following three successive draws, in spite of the Jambos being 12 points clear at the summit of the Championship.

However, Neilson says that exhibits a lack of respect to the other sides in the second tier — and reckons Saturday’s opponents, Dundee, have also suffered from the unfair expectation that they should sweep aside all comers.

RESPECT

He continued: “It’s part and parcel of football, nowadays. You just have to take it on the chin. People ask questions.

“We’re off the back of six undefeated — three wins and three draws — so, although it’s not been the best of periods, we’ve picked up a number of points and are sitting in a good position.

“People from the outside looking in expect ourselves, Dundee and, to an extent, Dunfermline to win week-in, week-out and it doesn’t work like that.

“There are good teams with good coaches and I feel like there has to be respect given.”