Hearts defender John Souttar explains why there are no wild title celebrations

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It is a clear indication of the disquiet among supporters and the general malaise surrounding Hearts that the club acknowledged being crowned Championship title winners with a succinct four-paragraph statement on Saturday.

There was no reaction from manager Robbie Neilson nor club owner Ann Budge.

Social media messages from the players marking the feat were also conspicuously absent.

Hearts defender John Souttar | Hearts news
Souttar made his first appearance since February 2020

After finishing bottom of last season’s curtailed Premiership, Hearts secured their immediate return to the top-flight with three games to spare.

However, the club’s fans will argue it should have been wrapped up long before Saturday, the team guilty of limping over the finishing line.

A run of two wins from nine outings – including the abject Scottish Cup loss at Brora Rangers – has only served to heighten the misgivings many fans have over the direction the club is heading in on and off the park.

Despite the personal elation of returning from a 405 day injury absence in Friday’s 6-0 thrashing of Alloa, John Souttar admits the title triumph does not warrant a party.

“We shouldn’t be down here,” said Souttar, who has suffered two ruptured Achilles since February 2020. 

“That goes without saying, a club like us should never be in the Championship. 

‘I don’t think there will be massive celebrations. It will be ‘job done, we are back where we belong’. 

“There will be celebrations next season if we can win a cup or get into the top three, four – not winning the Championship.”

Souttar admits he does not even want a memento from the title win.

He added: “I don’t think I can get a medal and I don’t want either. It’s the boys that have won the league, I’ve just been in the background.”

Neilson has bore the brunt of a recent barren run, with a phalanx of fans gathering outside Tynecastle before the recent league loss to Queen of the South to make their feelings clear.

Neilson has come under fire from fans

Souttar insists the former club captain is not the only one to blame for some recent poor displays.

He added: “Look, I don’t just think it’s the manager, it’s the whole club that’s taken stick. 

“I think we all hold our hands up – we’ve not been good enough. 

“The Alloa wins goes a small way of repaying everything back and we’ll get back to the top league.

“It’s important we have a good summer, pre-season and hit the ground running next year.”

Comeback

Hearts will be happy to see the back of the Championship but Souttar admits he is desperate for the season to continue after making his comeback in Friday’s win with an 84 minute run out.

He added: “I’m absolutely delighted to have played.

“For me personally to get back playing on the grass, it’s been a long time, 14 months, so it was an amazing feeling to get back playing.

“I didn’t think I’d be starting. I think it was pencilled in to give me ten, 20 minutes due to the injury, but I felt brilliant, I felt strong. 

“I’ve worked hard to get to this stage and thankfully it allowed me to play 85 minutes after being out for so long.

“I don’t want the season to end, I just want to play games. 

“There’s only three left now, but I’ve just got to be grateful for coming back, because it’s been serious injuries and to get the best career, I’ve just got to be grateful to be back playing football and enjoying myself.”

Souttar has worked hard to get himself back into top condition and admits he will make sure he keeps himself in shape over the close-season ahead of the club’s top-flight return.

He added: “I’ll need to take a rest, it’s not like I’ve been sitting about. 

“I’ve been grafting every day, whether it’s been out on the pitch or on the bike, so I will take a wee break. 

“It’s important for me to keep on top of everything I’ve been doing and hit next season flying, because it will be a big one, back in the top league where we belong. 

“We’ll be fighting to be in the top end of the table, that’s where we want to be. It will be important for me to keep my fitness up over the summer.”