Olly Lee outlines the new passing style Robbie Neilson is preaching at Hearts

Olly Lee is happy being back at Hearts.Olly Lee is happy being back at Hearts.
Olly Lee is happy being back at Hearts.
Midfielder happy to be back after fearing for his future

Olly Lee feared his Hearts career was finished just a few months ago. Now he is relishing life back at Riccarton playing a passing style of football under new manager Robbie Neilson.

The midfielder is targeting at least ten goals in maroon this season and feels rejuvenated thanks to the man-management of Neilson and his coaching staff, Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest.

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Former Hearts manager Craig Levein loaned Lee out to Gillingham last season after the pair had a difference of opinion. One of the first things Neilson did upon returning to Tynecastle in June was call the player and reassure him he had a future in Edinburgh.

The 29-year-old said the atmosphere within the squad is now totally transformed, helped by a focus on fluid, passing football.

“Everything is with the ball. The gaffer wants us to play good football and that’s the way I want to play. That’s what I’ve preached through my whole career,” he told the Edinburgh club’s website.

“I want to get the ball down and I want to pass it. The gaffer says that every day: ‘Just pass, pass, pass.’ That's music to my ears. I’m glad to be back. I really enjoy it here. Training so far has been really good, really intense and really hard work."

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On his goalscoring aspirations, he added: “Double figures is what I’m looking for. Whether I get there or not is another thing but I’m confident in my ability whether we are in the Championship or the Premiership.

“I know what I can do, I know what I can bring to the team and I back myself all the way.”

Lee made 34 appearances for Gillingham last season and enjoyed his spell at the English League One club. At the same time, he was concerned his period at Hearts was over after only one full season in the team.

Asked if there were moments when he thought he would not be back, he replied: “Yes, definitely. We didn’t know who the manager was going to be but when Robbie got the job he rung me up and said he wanted me to be part of the plans.

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“I was more than happy to come and be part of it. It’s like coming back to a different club, to be honest. It’s nowhere near the same atmosphere, it’s a different vibe, training is different.

“Gordon and Jigs [McCulloch] have been massive with that as well. The three of them together, I can’t speak highly enough of them so far.

“That’s all I wanted to hear from the manager and to get it from him quite early on when he got the job meant a lot to me. It was a nice confidence boost that there was a manager there who wanted me to play for this club.

“I’ve always said I love playing for the club, it’s a really good club to play for and I’m proud to do that. With this manager at the helm, I think we’ve got a great chance of success in the future.”

Extra fitness work during lockdown helped the Englishman return to his parent club in fine shape. Like many of his colleagues, he did a series of running exercises to ensure he stayed in good condition for the resumption of football.

“It’s the only thing that kept me sane over lockdown to be honest. I just went out running every day so I was in good nick,” he explained.

“Everyone has come back in really good nick. We’ve kind of hit the ground running and hopefully we can do that come October.

“Already we’ve started building the togetherness and I think that’s a big thing that the gaffer spoke about. We are a team unit now and we do everything together.

“You need that when you’ve got new players coming in and people coming back. It’s a completely new set-up. We need that time together and it’s just a good place to be at the minute.”

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