Hearts: Joe Savage's role in signings detailed as Robbie Neilson's plans to recruit for two formations

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has explained how he works with the club’s sporting director Joe Savage to recruit players.

By Joel Sked
Thursday, 13th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 7:21 am
Joe Savage will play a key role in recruitment this summer. Picture: SNS
Joe Savage will play a key role in recruitment this summer. Picture: SNS

Savage was announced in the role back in December and is set to enter his first summer transfer window at Hearts.

Neilson, who previously worked with the club’s former director of football Craig Levein, is a big advocate of such a position, especially from his experience as MK Dons boss.

In an interview with Hearts podcast Scarves Around the Funnel, he laid out how he benefits from the relationship.

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"Joe's been great from day one," Neilson said.

"When I went down to MK I was doing everything. Taking the team, doing the recruitment, overseeing the academy and it’s too much nowadays for a manager. You need somebody to support and do the things which allow you to focus on the first team.

“Joe has got an experienced background from recruitment down in England, from Norwich and Preston.

"The way it works at the moment, I will tell Joe this is the type of player I’m looking for, this is the position I am looking for, these are the specifics within that. Joe, with the scouting department, will go and source six or seven of these players and bring them to me. I will look at them and go ‘there is the number one target, number two and number three’.

"It is up to Joe to go and speak to the agents and potentially the club they are with to see if they can get a deal done and negotiate a contract. That allows me to pick the player to come in but then focus on what we ultimately need to do, which is win on a Saturday.”

Formation and age

When it comes to recruitment this summer, there are specifics Neilson is looking for. Firstly, players arriving will likely be under the age of 26. Secondly, they will ideally fit within two shapes he has in mind for next season.

Hearts finished the Championship campaign playing with a back three, while there were spells in a 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 diamond.

"There are two systems we will play and we are going to try and recruit for that as well,” Neilson said. “I think it is really important we have a good core group of players at the moment and we believe this system will suit them the best.

“The Championship, you have to be a bit more adaptive in the games you play. It is very much a transitional game, direct, knock downs, second balls, set plays. When you go into the Premiership most of the teams will have a style of play that they are consistent to. It gives you a chance to be a bit more consistent in your play.

He added: “The market we’re in, we're not going out and buying people. You have to look, this is the way we want to play, this is the type of player we want to get in. This is the age bracket we’re looking to get them in and this is the quality we want to get as well. We’d like to tick all of these boxes but at times you have to go ‘what is the most important one?”

The full interview with Robbie Neilson can be listened to HERE.

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