ROBBIE NEILSON revealed today that Hearts are weeks ahead with next season’s preparations because they won the Championship title so early.
Rivals Hibs and Rangers still have play-off ties to negotiate possibly until the end of the month, whilst Neilson is already speaking to potential signing targets.
The Tynecastle head coach has held talks with several players but explained that one has been discarded because he did not have the right attitude. Neilson’s priorities for next season are a new centre-back and a striker and he is determined only to recruit players with the required character.
He feels he is ahead of schedule with preparations for Hearts’ Premiership return as a result of finishing first in the table. With the title secured before the end of March – the Championship trophy will be presented today against Rangers – Neilson and his coaching staff are already well on with their plans for next season.
“That’s one of the bonuses of winning the league. You get an extra month to prepare and get players in,” he explained. “A lot of seasons will finish in the middle of May. We can then approach players and hopefully get them tied up before the play-offs finish.
“The last play-off game isn’t until May 31 so you are looking at four weeks when we have an advantage. A lot of players don’t want to hang about and want to get their futures tied up quickly.”
Last year’s recruitment drive brought an entire team of new players to Tynecastle, all with the correct attitude and desire as specified by Neilson. This summer will be no different, although it is expected that new signings will total four or five this time. “I think the recruitment we did for last season was good for us. We made sure, first and foremost, that it was the right characters coming in. That made a big difference to us,” said Neilson. “With the way we train, it had to be the right players coming in.
“I had a meeting this week with two players that I really liked. I liked one’s character so we are going to push that forward. I didn’t like the other one’s character so we cut ties there. For me, the most important thing is that we have the right type of people come into the club who will, one, work hard and, two, set an example to everyone else here.
“It’s about asking questions to get a feel for people. It’s important as a coach to have a relationship with a player. Right from the start, you can tell if you will or you won’t. If it’s the latter then I can’t bring them in. It doesn’t matter how good they are if they will unsettle the group and won’t be the right player to the club forward.
“That side of things is almost more important than ability. Obviously, you get people with good characters who are terrible football players, so you need to get a balancing act. You look for good players who are also good characters and I think we did that last year. All the guys who came in did really well for us, whether they have played thirty games or five games. They all had a good way about them and understood the situation.”