Hearts' blueprint to excite fans as Robbie Neilson reveals plan to restore team's attacking ethos
Robbie Neilson is explicitly clear on the Hearts DNA and traditional playing ethos, right down to the qualities required in every position.
Gradually, through each transfer window, he is executing a plan to build an attacking side which will follow the club’s principles. The manager knows it is a pertinent and thorny subject around Tynecastle Park. He has spent 16 years of his life there.
Neilson spoke exclusively to the Evening News today to outline his long-term blueprint: Improve the team window by window until it is a dangerous and dynamic unit which excites both supporters and neutrals alike.
He accepts there is much work to be done six months into his second tenure in Gorgie. “I think it's important that we build a team here, a team that excites people when they come to Tynecastle,” explained Neilson.
“I always believe Hearts should have two good full-backs who get forward, they should have two strong centre-halves, they should have a ball-winner and a ball player in the middle of the park, they should have two wide players who run at opponents and deliver crosses.
“Then they should have a physical striker who can link the game and score goals from crosses, plus a more mobile one beside him.
“I've been associated with Hearts for a long time. I believe that's the way Hearts play and that's the way they should play. This is about trying to get back to that. It takes a bit of time through each transfer window to get there.
“You should come out of every transfer window in a better position than before it opened. That's what we are trying to do in this window. Gary Mackay-Steven coming in has given us that lift. If we can get another one in, it will help again.
“We are continually trying to progress the team and get to where we want to get to, which is the top end of the Premiership.”
A new striker is now the priority before the winter window shuts. He is to fit the above criteria of a physical forward able to bring others into play.
“We have good players in the team already but we are still looking to add more,” said Neilson. “It's really important that we continue to develop the team. We want to win this league but also build a platform for seasons ahead.
“For me, you should be coming out of every window in a better position than when you went into it.”
Hearts are emerging from a mini break in better condition with players rested after a free weekend due to a Scottish Cup postponement. On-loan winger Josh Ginnelly and striker Liam Boyce are among those getting fitter.
“This has made all the difference to them and we're hopeful of getting them back for this weekend. Everything is fine and we are pleased with how they have progressed at the moment. Having no game last weekend gave us time to get people rested and recovered.”
The return of experienced full-back Michael Smith is another boost following his Covid isolation period.
“We're also going into quite a heavy schedule over the next few weeks. There have been games cancelled and they will need to be rearranged so we are just desperate to get everyone back available,” said Neilson.