Robbie Neilson today laughed off the ridiculous aeroplane protest by a small group of Hearts fans and stressed he is going nowhere.
The Tynecastle head coach, who signed a new two-and-a-half-year contract just two weeks ago, joked that he was impressed people went to the expense of hiring an aircraft to display a banner demanding his removal.
The incident happened seconds after kick-off in Saturday’s match against Partick Thistle. A plane carrying the message “No Style, No Bottle, Neilson Out” circled in the skies above Tynecastle, much to the surprise of most Hearts supporters. Booing quickly followed before chants of “One Robbie Neilson” echoed around the ground.
It was a stark reminder for the 35-year-old in his first managerial job that you can’t please everyone. Neilson, though, said he will remain focused on Hearts’ rebuilding programme and fully intends to see it through.
The Edinburgh club are on the verge of qualifying for Europe less than two years since exiting administration. Saturday’s win – courtesy of Arnaud Djoum’s first-half header – was the third victory and third clean sheet inside a week, and club finances are solid under the stewardship of Ann Budge.
A small minority of fans who have fallen foul of the club hierarchy for their behaviour inside Tynecastle are less than happy.
It is understood they are responsible for Saturday’s display, which Neilson said didn’t faze him in the slightest.
“When you’re a football player or football coach, there’s always going to be an element that doesn’t take to you. That’s football and that’s life. It’s important we stay focused and keep doing the right things. I think the club is in a good place, heading in the right direction and I’m happy to be part of that,” he told the Evening News. “It doesn’t bother me, to be honest. It’s quite impressive that somebody has gone to that length,” he said of the plane stunt. “You get support from the fans but I was wondering why they were shouting my name. It’s been a while since they sang it so I was wondering what was going on. It’s part of being a football coach, there’s always something going on. Put your money into the Foundation of Hearts. We’re trying to improve the club, we’re trying to build a new stand. Any money anybody has got, don’t waste it on me, give it to the Foundation.”
Hearts hope to complete the signing of American international midfielder Perry Kitchen this week. The player heads back to his homeland today and should be back in Edinburgh on Thursday. His UK work permit has already been approved.
“He flies away today to get his visa sorted out in America and he should be back for training on Thursday. Everything is agreed, the contract is agreed, so it’s just a case of getting the work permit,” said Neilson.
• Hearts’ Ladbrokes Premiership clash at Inverness on Tuesday, March 15 has been postponed due to the Highlanders’ William Hill Scottish quarter-final replay against Hibs now taking place 24 hours later. A new date for the Hearts match has yet to be decided.