Robbie Neilson believes the devotion required and knowledge gained from winning a league title is vital to the development of Hearts’ young players.
Hearts beat Queen of the South 2-0 on Saturday as a capacity Tynecastle crowd acclaimed their heroes, who are now automatically promoted. Winning the Championship with a relentless sequence of results, including only one league defeat so far, has earned Neilson and his players plaudits from around the country.
Those who stand to benefit most are the players after their devotion to the club’s cause throughout the season. Neilson is keen that they should enjoy the experience and learn from it. “They know what it takes now to go and win a league. They know what’s required,” he said today.
“You need to work hard every single day and in every single game. You also need to sacrifice and be part of a team. That’s what it’s been about on Saturday. All season we’ve had guys coming in and doing their bit, then stepping out and somebody else coming in. They haven’t been selfish about wanting to play every single game. It’s been about winning the games first and foremost.”
Neilson held up striker James Keatings as an example of the dedication he values. The former Hamilton forward has found himself out of the starting line-up in recent weeks after playing a pivotal role during the winter months.
“James carried us right through December and January when we had a wee problem with strikers and couldn’t get anyone else in,” recalled Neilson. “On Saturday, against Queen of the South, he didn’t start but he came on and made runs for the team and pressed people. That’s what you want. He’s sacrificing himself for the team.”
n HEARTS are in Development League action tonight against Partick Thistle at Firhill. The match kicks off at 6pm.