Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson is unfazed about bookmakers offering odds on managers being sacked – provided his name is at the bottom of the list.
Lead sponsor Ladbrokes created a furore earlier this week by suspending bets on Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes being the next Scottish Premiership manager to lose his job. McInnes and his club were outraged given the rumour appeared to stem from social media.
Neilson insists he has no issue with the betmaking system, passing it off as part of football. He admitted he expects to be involved in such a market at some stage in his career but, for now, wants his name kept well out of contention.
“We’ll all be in that position eventually, numerous times as well,” he said. “That’s just the way football is and life is. Things get put out on social media and get escalated from there. We just need to accept it.
“It’s their [Ladbrokes’] line of business so they have to do it. They’re bookmakers, people want to give them money to put bets on. I don’t have any issue with it and we aren’t going to stop it.
“It happens in every league in the world and every sport in the world. Just as long as many name is down near the bottom of the list.
“You can get odds on anything. That’s the way it goes. It’s just a wee bit more in the public eye and people write about it. It doesn’t matter whether the bookies want to take odds on it or not because if it’s going to happen, then it will happen.”
Asked if such markets increase pressure on managers, Neilson replied: “I don’t feel any pressure. I just come in and do my job every day. If you come in and do it as best you can then what else can you do? I don’t think the odds on getting sacked are going to make any difference whether you get sacked or not.”
There is no prospect of Neilson losing his job soon with Hearts third in the league table in their first season back in the Premiership. They head to Tannadice tomorrow to face Dundee United, whose new manager Mixu Paatelainen takes charge for the first time since replacing Jackie McNamara.
Neilson is wary of the lift teams often get following a managerial change.
“I am expecting it with Mixu coming in,” he said. “He’s got a good record in Scotland with Kilmarnock and he went to Finland and did well. He’s talking about making sure he avoids relegation, so I expect United to defend well and be hard to break down. You always get a lift when a new manager comes in because it’s a clean slate for everyone.
“Players who haven’t been in the picture for three months think they’ve got a chance so they all start working hard in training. It can give the whole club a lift. United have a lot of good young players and boys with a wee bit of experience as well. It’s a good appointment for them. I’m hopeful Mixu hasn’t had enough time to really work his squad that well and we can still take advantage of it. I expect them to pick up in the long-term, though.”
Paatelainen’s past as a former Hibs player and manager does not both Neilson either. “Stevie Crawford used to be a Hibee. It doesn’t bother me,” he laughed, in reference to his assistant at Hearts.
Neilson and Crawford must plan without the suspended pair of Callum Paterson and Gavin Reilly tomorrow. The former Dundee United triumvirate of Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben and Danny Swanson should all be involved.
“I think it will boost them going back. They’re all held in pretty high esteem up there,” explained Neilson. “They won the Scottish Cup and then left to go down to England so I’m sure they’ll be eager to play. You want players to be enthusiastic.
“There are grounds you enjoy playing in and some you don’t enjoy playing in. I’m sure Tannadice is a place they enjoyed having played a lot of games there. It’s definitely something we’ll think about when we pick the team.”
The condition of Jamie Walker must also be considered. He missed training at the start of the week due to a persistent knee problem, but the winger said: “I’ve had problems with my knees this season so it was good to rest during the international break and hopefully I’m looking well for tomorrow. It’s still a bit niggly, but I’ll get through it.
“After the Dundee game on the second game of the season I got a wee knock on it but it’s improving and hopefully it will go away soon.
“Hopefully, if I rest it, it will go away. I didn’t train in the early part of the week. I’m only 22, though, so I don’t want to get into that habit.”
Walker is keen to face his former Hearts colleague Ryan McGowan. “I’ve not been in touch with Gowser, but he has been on my Instagram. I put a picture of my knees up and he commented with ‘Don’t be scared for Sunday’. There might be a heavy challenge early doors,” he smiled.