HEARTS are one year ahead of schedule in their rebuilding programme having budgeted for a two-year stay in the Scottish Championship, the Evening News can reveal.
The Tynecastle club won the league last weekend but head coach Robbie Neilson admitted they originally planned for the possibility of failing to achieve promotion this season. New owner Ann Budge appointed Craig Levein director of football and Neilson head coach last summer, and those three formed modest plans after Hearts came out of administration. Those centred around the need to return to the Premiership within two years. However, the team have far exceeded expectations by winning the Championship title with seven games left.
They will celebrate in front of a capacity home crowd at Tynecastle today against Queen of the South. Neilson, whilst delighted at the rapid progress made in just nine months since Hearts emerged from administration, stressed a contingency plan was vital last year in case promotion didn’t materialise. With the teams in the Championship this year, we had to speculate that we were going to stay down,” he said.
“We had to get back up within two years so that’s what everything was based around to try and relieve the pressure to get promotion in the first year.
“We knew Rangers and Hibs were in the league and obviously we were coming off the back of a relegation and administration as well.
“We had to get back up in two years and we’ve managed to do it in one. We wanted to do it in one season but we weren’t sure if we would or not.
“It’s great to get there and I’m so pleased for everyone at the club. Ann, for one, has put so much time, money and commitment into the club. Craig has taken a chance on me, and for the fans it’s just been fantastic.
“I think they’ve probably enjoyed their year in the Championship, going to different grounds and planning different away days and seeing different teams. Everyone wants to be in the top league, though, and we’ve managed to get back there quickly.
“That’s where we belong and I’m pleased for the fans that we’re going back there within a year.”