Hearts CEO Andrew McKinlay explains reasons for sacking Robbie Neilson

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Former Hearts boss Robbie Neilson was sacked after the club decided performances over recent weeks were “unacceptable”, chief executive Andrew McKinlay has explained.

The head coach was given his marching orders on Sunday evening after almost three years in charge of the Tynecastle side following the 2-0 defeat to St Mirren, which continued a run of five straight defeats with six losses in their last seven.

A board meeting on Sunday afternoon decided that a change was needed. Steven Naismith has been placed interim charge, assisted by Gordon Forrest and Frankie McAvoy. Assistant coach Lee McCulloch joined Neilson in leaving the club.

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"Everyone connected with the club was bitterly disappointed with the outcome of Saturday’s cinch Premiership match with St Mirren. We had all hoped that things would turn around, sooner rather than later, but results and performances over the past seven weeks have been unacceptable and there is no sugar coating that,” McKinlay said in a club statement.

Robbie Neilson was sacked as Hearts head coach on Sunday after a run of five straight defeats. Picture: SNSRobbie Neilson was sacked as Hearts head coach on Sunday after a run of five straight defeats. Picture: SNS
Robbie Neilson was sacked as Hearts head coach on Sunday after a run of five straight defeats. Picture: SNS

“At full time on Saturday we found ourselves at a crossroads and the board took the extremely difficult decision, after much discussion, to make a managerial change in order to get back on track and refocus our efforts on clinching third place in the league.

“I do not need to remind anyone just how pivotal a figure Robbie Neilson has been in this club’s journey back to the top of Scottish football. His commitment to Hearts has been unwavering, and he deserves every plaudit for guiding us back into the top flight, to two Scottish Cup Finals, to third place last season and into group stage European football. Robbie, along with Lee McCulloch, will forever have our gratitude for those achievements, which is why this was such a tough decision to make.

“However, we simply could not ignore the results and performances. The board is here to make difficult decisions and act in the best interests of the club, which is what we feel we have done by making this change at this time.”

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McKinlay also issues a rallying cry for supporters as he wants everyone at the club to come together in the fight for third place, which is expected to bring with it another £5m bounty for getting at least eight games guaranteed in European football next term.

“We enter a crucial period of the season, with two games remaining until the split, followed by a further five matches. With what is at stake, it is no exaggeration to say that we are facing seven cup finals. We had a taste of group stage European football this season and have, in many ways, reaped the benefits. Our aim has always been to repeat this feat and that target has not changed, despite what has transpired recently.

“Our supporters have backed the team in magnificent fashion in huge numbers, home and away, all season. I ask them to continue to do this, to get behind Steven, Gordon, Frankie and the team for the remaining seven games and help us to achieve our goal. By standing together we will give ourselves the best chance of winning football matches, building momentum and reclaiming third spot, and the prizes associated with it.”

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