Hearts crowned Scottish Championship winners with three games to spare
Hearts have been crowned Scottish Championship winners.
Robbie Neilson 's men have secured the second tier title and a return to the Premiership at the first time of asking with three games to spare.
Friday night's 6-0 thumping of Alloa Athletic moved them to within two points of being confirmed as winners.
They required both Raith Rovers and Dundee, their nearest challengers, to drop points.
Despite facing opponents they were expected to beat they failed to win.
Raith gave up a two-goal lead at home to Arbroath to draw 2-2, while Dundee drew 1-1 with Greenock Morton at Dens Park.
It is the second time Hearts have won the second tier since 2015 and the third time Neilson has steered a side to promotion from the league having done so in his first spell at Tynecastle before leading Dundee United back to the top flight last season.
Cava in the Championship
Celebrations are expected to be low key following the club’s return to the Premiership.
“What happens on Saturday happens, we’ve got a game in ten day’s time we’ve got to prepare for down at Morton, whether that’s to get over the line or whether it’s already done we’ll wait and see.
He added: “It’s Cava in the Championship. We’ll wait and see how it goes over the weekend.”
SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster congratulated the side on their achievement.
He said: “As Hearts are confirmed winners of the Scottish Championship, I would like to warmly congratulate the club’s players, management team and directors on their achievement. It’s a fantastic accomplishment and they are undoubtedly deserving champions.
“While Hearts have now sealed promotion, there remains plenty to play for in the division with play-off spots still very much up for grabs and, of course, relegation still to be decided. Only 11 points separate second and ninth position in the table so we can look forward to an exciting conclusion to the season.”
Hearts have not stormed to the title the way they did in 2014/15 when they set a points record, finishing with 90 points, a +70 goals difference and averaging 2.53 points per game.
In comparison, the team have averaged 2.08 points per game, a ratio bettered by just four Championship winners in the previous ten years.
The truncated season started positively with a 6-2 win over Dundee at Tynecastle and there have been big wins along the way, including 6-1 over Queen of the South, 4-0 at Raith Rovers, Friday’s thrashing of Alloa and, of course, a Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Hibs.
Equally there have been some stuttering performances. Losing in cup competition to both Alloa and Brora Rangers, while dropping points against Arbroath, at home to Greenock Morton and losing to Queen of the South in the league. The latter saw a fan protest outside Tynecastle Park against the manager and Ann Budge.
The objective Neilson was set on his return from Dundee United, however, has been achieved.
The Hearts boss has already started looking ahead to next season with transfer preparations already underway.
A revamp is expected with a number of new arrivals likely.
Neilson said: "It’s about turning the squad over to make sure we get a team which is competitive next year.”