Steven Pressley has expressed his delight for Robbie Neilson for delivering the Championship title after claiming Hearts do not understand the scale of problems the manager inherited.
The Tynecastle side sealed their immediate return to the Premiership on Saturday after results went their way following Friday’s 6-0 drubbing of Alloa.
However, some supporters still have grave reservations about Neilson, who returned for his second stint in the dugout last summer, continuing as boss.
Those doubts stem from domestic cup losses to Brora Rangers and Alloa and some uninspiring performances in the league.
However, Pressley – a former team-mate of Neilson’s at Tynecastle – insists the wreckage of last year’s relegation from the top-flight was a lot worse than many people realise.
He said: “People don’t understand where the club is, they have heard a lot about strategy and plans for a number of years and I know that Hearts fans don’t want to hear that.
“But the reality is that these strategies and plans were never fully delivered and he’s having to pick up the pieces of that.
“They are at the start of a rebuild, they are because of the way the club was. That’s the harsh reality of the situation.
“He is having to deal with a lot more than meets the eye.
“I’m so happy for Robbie because in my opinion he’s had to deal with a lot of unjust criticism.
“Yes, some of the performances of late have not been at the level he had hoped for but he’s having to restructure and rebuild a football club in my opinion and he’s done the first phase of that, which is returning to the Premiership.
“The infrastructure needs to be built around Robbie so he has the right support and help in the areas he needs.
“I’m so happy for him, he deserves it. He’s such a hard working guy that puts his life and soul into that football club.”
Neilson has recruited some 13 players since returning to the Tynecastle dugout last summer and former Hearts captain Pressley insists another major squad overhaul is coming.
He added: “The second phase is trying to rebuild a squad of players that are capable of making an impression on the Premiership.
“A million per cent there needs to be a squad revamp.
“Everybody wants to see a certain type of football from Hearts, which is high energy, octane football but it’s okay talking about it and wanting it but in order to deliver it you need the personnel that actually can.
“Robbie will, in my opinion, need to bring in players with greater legs in his team.
“We saw a much better performance in that shape on Friday but for me he still needs to bring in a number of players.
“He will be more than aware of that but there were good signs on Friday.
“But to be a success in the Premiership he’s going to need more and better.”