Hearts boss expects more noise on the pitch following protests off it

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has been trying to muffle the ‘external noise’, but is hoping the return of five vocal players can help the team recover from their crisis.

Neilson’s position has come under intense scrutiny following the recent shambolic Scottish Cup loss to Brora Rangers and last weekend’s defeat at home to Queen of the South.

As a pundit for BBC Radio Scotland at Tynecastle for the Doonhamers match, former manager Craig Levein admitted his surprise that none of the players on the park were shouting in a bid to stimulate the team.

Hearts fans at Tynecastle | Hearts news
Hearts fans protested against Neilson last weekend

However, that could change in tomorrow’s visit of Dunfermline, with Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon and Northern Ireland Michael Smith available again following international duty.

Steven Naismith, Stephen Kingsley and Andy Halliday are also on course to return from injury, with Hearts potentially just two games away from the Championship title.

Neilson, who could also hand experienced Shay Logan his debut after recruiting the defender on loan from Aberdeen, said: “We’ve got a number of experienced players coming back into the group again. 

“When you lose a number of players like we lost prior to the game last Tuesday – Michael Smith, Craig Gordon, Steven Naismith and Stephen Kingsley – we lost a number of players who bring that leadership to us. We didn’t have Andy Halliday available either. 

“When you lose that, it’s always going to be a loss to the group. They’re back now so I’d expect to see a more vocal, more driven team.

“We went into the last two games with a totally different back four.

“We had a different ‘keeper in, we had a left back in and had to shuffle the pack.

“Bringing Michael back but also Shay Logan gives us more numbers in there and we can get people playing in their right position.”

A small group of fans protested outside Tynecastle before the defeat to Queens, a result that did little to assuage any concerns over Neilson’s presence in the dugout.

Neilson added: “It is part and parcel of being a manager, you can do all the courses you want on tactics but when the chips are down it is about keeping everyone together and you push forward. 

“For me, there has been a lot of external noise but in here we are trying to focus on what needs to be done. 

“If you are at a club and you lose two games and there is no criticism then expectations are very low or you aren’t at a big club, so it comes with the territory and you have to take it and use it as motivation. 

“I spoke to the players about it not being acceptable but they have to put it right. 

“You can talk to the press, talk at the training ground but the only way to put it right is by winning on a Saturday.”