Hearts achieve all three targets set by management team
Friday night’s 4-0 win at Raith Rovers saw the Edinburgh club finish the season on a high by reaching a points tally, goal tally and goals-against tally they were aiming for.
Gary Mackay-Steven claimed a double for the second match in succession, with Euan Henderson and Steven Naismith also etching their names on the scoresheet.
The result ended Raith’s hopes of finishing second behind Hearts in the Championship table. They come third and now enter a promotion play-off quarter-final against Fife rivals Dunfermline on Tuesday.
For Hearts, the season has ended on an encouraging note. “We spoke about 57 points winning you the league guaranteed,” said Neilson.
“You score more than 50 goals, you win the league; we did that. Concede less than 25 goals you'll win the league; we did that. All three indicators that would win the Championship, we've managed to do them so I'm delighted to finish like that.
“We hit all the targets. Externally people expected us to win every game convincingly but no team in world football has won the league by winning every single game. So those external expectations were unrealistic.
“We've had spells in the season when we weren't at it but ultimately it's a good season because we've won the league and we're back in the top flight.”
Neilson and his coaches, Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest, will now plan for a return to the Premiership next season. Sporting director Joe Savage is already working on signing targets for the summer.
Hearts intend to sign at least one centre-back and will also try to recruit in midfield and attack to ensure they are ready to compete in the top flight.
“I spoke at the start of the season about trying to get pace in the team but unfortunately the ones that came in, either through injury or lack of form, didn't quite hit the ground running,” admitted Neilson.
“So we had to change shape but you have to do something as coaches and managers when your plan isn't working so we'll think about that over the summer.”