Robbie Neilson implored Hearts fans to continue backing their club as he heads off to join MK Dons.
Last night’s 2-0 win over Rangers propelled the Tynecastle club to second in the Ladbrokes Premiership, but Neilson believes they can climb higher with supporters driving them forward.
He urged the public to keep monthly pledges up through Foundation of Hearts and acclaimed owner Ann Budge as the reason for recent success.
The head coach won the Championship and guided the Edinburgh club to a European place in two seasons in charge.
He will now head to Milton Keynes, where he is likely to be announced as manager in the next 48 hours after agreeing personal terms.
Compensation is the only issue to be resolved but should be finalised today.
“The club still has a long way to go and financially the fans still need to back Hearts. They need to get their pledges in through Foundation of Hearts because it’s all for nights like that against Rangers,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“They put their money in to get the club back where they belong. We need to keep reminding ourselves where Hearts were two-and-a-half years ago – in administration. Don’t get carried away. Be patient because the club is still in a building process.
“The fans here are magnificent. It’s a huge club.
“There are always going to be elements here and there but there are no other fans in the world who back their club the way they do.
“They put their hands in their pockets every month to drive the club forward, to build a new stand, to get the club from Championship to second in the league. It’s only going to go higher from here.
“Ann Budge has made the main difference at this club. She’s given us stability and Foundation of Hearts have given us finance.
“It’s nothing to do with me. It’s about the players, the fans and the owner. They drive this club.”
Neilson was reluctant to publicly confirm his exit but added: “It’s still not done yet. I’ll be in tomorrow morning and we’ll take it from there.
“It’s a pleasing night for the players, the fans are happy and the place is rocking. That’s what this place has missed over the last two-and-a-half years with the troubles. Now they’re back to where they should be.
“To be part of this football club has been an honour.
“It’s a fabulous establishment. It’s been great being here and being part of the journey.
“It’s been a fabulous night and the journey is still going here.
“People jump on and jump off but it’s important that journey keeps going. It still has a long way to go.”
Speaking about the win, courtesy of Robbie Muirhead’s first two Hearts goals, Neilson said: “I’m just delighted the players put in a performance like that. My job as a coach is to try and progress the players and they’ve progressed.
“Perry Kitchen dominated the midfield, Jamie Walker, Callum Paterson, Liam Smith comes on, John Souttar wasn’t getting a game elsewhere, Robbie Muirhead. We gave Jack Hamilton an opportunity and he’s kept a clean sheet against Rangers.
“There are going to be ups and downs but it’s about patience and building that team. Hearts are definitely going places.”
Midfielder Don Cowie labelled Neilson one of the best coaches he has worked under. “The manager told us he’d been given permission to speak to MK,” he said.
“When you see the crowd against Rangers, the atmosphere and fans singing his name, it would make you emotional. You’d think: ‘Is it worth leaving?’
“He obviously feels that’s his next move. He’s had a terrific two-and-a-half years here and maybe he feels it’s time to move on.
“I’m coming to the end of my career but I’ve worked under a few managers and he’s up there with the best. His man-management, passion and how he looks after the players is second to none.
“We’ll be disappointed if he leaves but that’s football. It wouldn’t surprise me if he uses this as a stepping stone to bigger things.”