It was back to back derby victories for Hearts which denied Hibs a place in the top six, a shot at European qualification and a place in the Scottish Cup final.
But despite bringing Hibs’ season to a miserable halt, Neilson was taken aback by the news that the Easter Road had opted to fire their manager just 120 days after his appointment.
He said: “To be honest, I was surprised and, on a personal note, I was disappointed for Shaun because I know him pretty well.
“I spoke to him a few times when I was Dundee United manager and I think he is a really good coach. But it is the nature of the beast now. It’s just the way it is.
“He got very limited time to do anything, but the chairman makes a decision and you just have to take it on the chin.
“I’m sure he’ll come back stronger. I was the same at MK Dons when I got let go. It can hurt for a while, but it definitely makes you a better coach.”
While Maloney was ousted so soon into his three-and-a-half-year contract, Hearts are reaping the rewards of sticking by Neilson, even after last season’s ignominious cup defeat to Brora Rangers.
Back in the Premiership, they have earned a third-place finish and are guaranteed European football into December. And, they could yet wrap up a wonderful season by lifting silverware next month.
“Football is about two sides. It’s about long-term planning and having to win on a Saturday. If there’s a balance, it’s my job is to win on Saturday, but the people above me, their job is to look at the long-term structure as well.
“When that long-term becomes short term, it becomes difficult. It’s a longer term plan here. Even the qualification for Europe isn’t just: ‘That’s us we’ve done it’. It is: ‘What can we do in three years’ time? Five years’ time?’ And we try to grow the club.
“It takes time, but you don’t get time and that’s the disappointing thing about football. There are going to be ups and downs and that’s just the way it is. You are hoping you have that stability.”
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