ROBBIE NEILSON revealed today that a change of mentality and a more ruthless approach is behind Hearts’ surge to the top of the Premiership.
The Tynecastle head coach insisted this year’s squad is even more merciless than that which won the Championship in record-breaking fashion last season. Hearts sit two points clear of Celtic atop the Premiership table with a 100 per cent record after four matches. Neilson said he isn’t surprised by their standing because the competition within the players is stronger than ever before in his tenure.
Summer signings have brought European and international experience in the shape of Juwon Oshaniwa, Blazej Augustyn, Juanma and Igor Rossi. They have also added a further competitive edge to a team which developed a strong winning mentality last season. Neilson admitted he is enjoying the ferocity of people fighting for places in his team, and the relentless pursuit of league points which sees Hearts top in their first season back in the Premiership.
“I did expect that mentality to show in the Premiership,” he said, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “You get Oshaniwa in – he’s a winner. He’s had to fight to get himself to the World Cup. You get Rossi in – he’s a winner. He’s had to fight to get himself to Portugal from Brazil to play football. Guys like that have had to fight for everything to get where they are in football. That rubs off on everyone else. It creates a winning mentality in training because they do things and they all want to win. It’s become so competitive now. I think there’s a change in the mentality of the squad now. Last season was great, but we had a lot guys who had been together a long time and knew each other really closely. It was, in training, a wee bit friendly. This year, it’s more of an elite squad. It’s about winning. It’s about getting yourself into the team. It’s about being successful for the team. That makes my job a lot easier.
“I know the team has that gritty side in them. I know they’re winners, the lot of them. The guys we had last season who won the league, and the guys who have come in, they’re all winners. They want to win every game, they want to win in training and they want to win at whatever they’re doing. If you can create that kind of atmosphere then you can make good things happen.”