ROBBIE NEILSON insists Adam Eckersley hasn’t kicked his last ball for Hearts despite leaving the left-back out of his squad for yesterday’s 2-1 defeat away to Rangers.
As revealed in Saturday’s Evening News, the 29-year-old Mancunian has been told he won’t have his contract renewed at the end of the season as the Tynecastle club look to recruit a left-back with more development potential.
In light of the surprise development, the defender, who had appeared to have established himself as Hearts’ first-choice left-back in recent months, dropped out of the match-day squad altogether for the trip to Ibrox, with Kevin McHattie returning to the starting line-up in his place.
However, Neilson is adamant that there is no reason Eckersley, who is popular among supporters, will not feature again before his deal expires at the end of the season.
“I spoke to him on Thursday and we decided he’d sit the game out yesterday,” the head coach told the Evening News. “He’ll come in today and we’ll have a chat about things and take it from there. There’s no issue with Adam. He’s still part of the club, still a professional football player getting paid by the club so if he’s needed, he’ll be involved. I don’t see any reason why he won’t play a part between now and the end of the season. I’ll have a look at the squad and maybe freshen it up a little bit for the game against Alloa on Wednesday with a view to the game on Sunday against Hibs.”
Hearts suffered only their second league defeat of the season when they lostto ten-man Rangers after being given a guard of honour onto the Ibrox pitch by their hosts. First-half goals from Kenny Miller and Haris Vuckic had Rangers in control before their captain, Lee McCulloch, was sent off for elbowing Osman Sow just before the break. Hearts pulled one back through Genero Zeefuik with eight minutes left.
“We were five or ten per cent off it but there’s not been many games like that this season, so I can’t be critical of the players,” said Neilson. “They’ve had a fantastic season. It was nice of the Rangers players to give us a guard of honour but obviously we’d have preferred to top it off by getting three points.”
Meanwhile, Hearts’ development team are in action against Motherwell in Airdrie tonight (6pm). Jack Ross’s youngsters will also play Hibs in a rescheduled match at Newtongrange this Thursday (2pm).