Hearts coach has no intention of leaving

Robbie Neilson is all smiles at training
Robbie Neilson is all smiles at training
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Robbie Neilson insists he is totally content at Hearts and has given no thought to the possibility of leaving for a bigger club.

The 34-year-old has made a stunning start to his managerial career since he was installed as head coach following Ann Budge’s takeover of the club seven months ago.

Having guided his team to an unbeaten start and a nine-point lead at the top of the Championship, Neilson was this week described as the hardest-working manager in Scotland by director of football Craig Levein, while Budge admitted she expects to lose the highly-regarded coach to more illustrious pastures sooner or later.

However, Neilson moved to allay any fears that he may be eyeing a climb up the career ladder by insisting that he has everything he could possibly want at Hearts, a club where he spent more than a decade as a player.

“Leaving Hearts is not in my mind at all,” he told the Evening News. “I’m just in the door. I’m really enjoying it and I want to stay here for as long as I can. I’m here for as long as Ann and Craig are happy with me and want me to be here.

“I’ve been at the club for a long time [as a player] and it’s a great club. I don’t think people realise until they come here just how big it is and what a great fanbase and facilities we have at the academy. I’m at a club that’s come through a rocky patch but is now stable.

“There are not many clubs out there as stable as Hearts. It’s great for me to have that because there’s so many clubs out there where one week this is happening and the next week something else is happening.”

Asked specifically about his personal aims for the future, Neilson replied: “My ambition at the moment is to beat Alloa and then beat Cowdenbeath and so on. That’s all you can do in football. You can’t start saying ‘in a year I want to be here and in three years I want to be there’ because there are so many variables in football. You’re only three games away from a crisis, so I’ll never get carried away.”

While flattered by the praise that has come his way, Neilson insists the quality of players at his disposal has made it easier for him to start his managerial career with such a flourish.

“I knew when I came in that I was very lucky to have this squad,” he said. “I had a lot of good young players and I also had the opportunity to bring in some good types and good players. When you can do that, it’s always going to make your start in management a lot easier. I’m pleased with the way it’s going, but it’s still very early. We’re not even six months in yet.”

Meanwhile, Prince Buaben has put the finishing touches to a contract extension that will keep him at Hearts until summer 2018. The Ghanaian midfielder’s initial one-year deal was due to expire at the end of this season so Hearts moved to secure his services long-term after an impressive start to the campaign.

The Evening News revealed in November that a new contract had been agreed in principle, with Buaben, 26, saying last week that he wanted to “stay at Hearts for life”.

The deal was finalised at Riccarton yesterday.

• The Under-20s derby between Hearts and Hibs this Monday has been postponed.