Sam Nicholson ‘still a key player for Hearts’ – Neilson

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson says he can see Sam Nicholson's form coming back. Pic: SNS

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson says he can see Sam Nicholson's form coming back. Pic: SNS

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Sam Nicholson is recapturing form just in time for the new season and remains a key player for Hearts, according to head coach Robbie Neilson. He said the 21-year-old winger is improving in training ahead of next weekend’s opening Ladbrokes Premiership fixture against Celtic.

Nicholson endured a frustrating end to last season and found himself dropped after Hearts’ first European tie against Infonet. He admitted it was a jolt he needed and pledged to perform better. He is now pushing for a starting place against Celtic at Tynecastle a week tomorrow.

“He’s a young player and they all go through ups and downs,” Neilson told the Evening News. “Sam had a really good start to last season and then he fatigued a little bit. He found it difficult to find his form again towards the end of the season.

“I can see it coming back. It’s just important we manage him through it. Sam is still young and has played a lot of football but I can see him getting stronger, quicker and more intelligent. I can see him getting back to the form we know he can produce.

“All young players have little ups and down in their progress. Sam has always been improving. At the start of last season, he progressed hugely in the space of a few months. We knew getting that rest over the summer would do him the world of good.”

Hearts still hope to sign another left-sided midfielder to compete for places alongside Nicholson, Jamie Walker and recent arrival Robbie Muirhead. “We’re looking to bring in another wide player that gives competition, but also to give guys like Sam a chance to come out of the team and get a rest when they need it,” said Neilson.