Hard line on discipline to remain at Hearts

Walker and Stevenson clashed back in August
Walker and Stevenson clashed back in August
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Robbie Neilson explained that Hearts’ determination to maintain a positive reputation means the club will never try and defend any of their players if they feel their actions merit punishment.

Some Hearts fans were riled this week when Rangers striker Kris Boyd dodged sanction for a near-identical incident to one for which Jambos winger Jamie Walker was punished in August.

The fundamental difference between the two cases was that Rangers chose to appeal after Boyd was handed a notice of complaint and offered a two-match ban for pushing his head towards that of Hibs defender Jordon Forster, while Hearts accepted the two-game suspension handed to Walker for doing likewise to Lewis Stevenson, also of Hibs.

Despite seeing Boyd’s appeal succeed, Neilson has no regrets whatsoever about not contesting Walker’s punishment.

Asked if this week’s events had changed his mind on how Hearts would react to any future notices of complaint, Neilson said: “No. To be honest, I haven’t seen Kris’s incident to compare it with Jamie’s, so we’re only looking at Jamie’s incident. From my point of view, I looked at it when we got the ban in, and we accepted it because I think it was right.

“I think it brought the club’s name into disrepute. It was a silly incident. He made a mistake. We accepted the ban, he got fined, and it was done. It’s important we look after ourselves. If one of our players does it, then we accept it.”

A judicial panel decided during a Hampden hearing that there was not enough evidence to suspend Boyd. Neilson added: “That’s up to them. It’s up to the compliance officer to do his job. If he thinks it doesn’t warrant a ban, then it doesn’t warrant a ban.

“We could have chased ours up, but I thought ours warranted a ban. It costs £1000 to challenge it, and for a start he did lead with the head, so it’s a waste of £1000. The two-game ban could have been increased to three, and it’s important we look after the image of the club as well and accept it.”

Neilson, meanwhile, insists he would love to be able to train on every opponent’s pitch after taking his team through to Recreation Park on Wednesday to get a feel for the plastic pitch ahead of today’s Championship match against Alloa. “We knew as soon as the fixtures came out that we were going to hire it,” he explained. “It’s a pitch you can hire out, it’s open to the public. Alloa were great with us – they allowed us to do it. It was part of the preparation – if we can do it, we’ll do it. If we could hire every other pitch in the Championship on a Wednesday I would do it as well.”

Despite gripes about Alloa’s harder-than-normal pitch, Neilson feels it could play to the strengths of his technically-gifted youngsters. “It is a different surface – it’s older than the Queen of the South one [from last weekend],” he said. “But it’s flat, it’s green and it’s got lines on it, so it’ll do fine for us.

“A lot of our players were brought up on it and are used to it. I spoke to some of them after it and they actually enjoyed playing on it. Astroturf pitches are quite beneficial for us.”

Neilson was in magnanimous mood despite his Hibs counterpart Alan Stubbs beating him to the Championship manager of the month award for September.

“I like Alan, I’ve spoken to him a lot, and he had some good results last month, to be fair,” said Neilson. “He’s done very well – good result against Ross County [in the League Cup], good result at Rangers that did us a turn.

“I’m pleased for him. We had a good month as well, but lost at Celtic [in the League Cup] and dropped points at Dumbarton”