Robbie Neilson: As a club, Hearts have been hit – and we need to remember that

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson says his team are fighting back.Hearts manager Robbie Neilson says his team are fighting back.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson says his team are fighting back.
A sense of injustice still prevails at Tynecastle Park but Hearts are fighting tenaciously back from a summer of discontent.

Manager Robbie Neilson guided his club to a Scottish Cup final last week and wants to defy Scottish football’s authorities by lifting the trophy. It is a chance to “do a bit of kicking back”.

Enforced relegation, a subsequent court case, arbitration and an order to stop training left everyone connected with Hearts feeling victimised after Covid 19 struck. That notion hasn’t dispersed.

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Playing matches again brought opportunities to recover and stick two fingers up at those largely responsible – other clubs, the Scottish Professional Football League and Scottish Football Association.

Hearts have won every one of six competitive games across the Betfred Cup, Championship and Scottish Cup since their campaign commenced a month ago.

The semi-final win against Hibs last weekend was by far the most satisfying – partly because it came in front of SPFL and SFA officials at Hampden Park. Neilson explained why he and his players are driven to battle back from recent setbacks.

“Is it motivation? 100 per cent,” he said. “I said after the semi-final that it’s been a difficult nine months to a year for the club.

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“We’ve been kicked left, right and centre by a lot of things that have happened and this is an opportunity to play in a cup final and do a bit of kicking back.

“As a club, we have been hit – and we need to remember that when we play every single game this season.”

Hearts must win the Championship title to earn automatic promotion back to the Premiership. However, the lurking concern about whether Covid-19 might halt this campaign is very real.

No-one wants a repeat of the shambolic voting process by which last season was curtailed. As it stands, there is still no definitive plan for what the authorities will do in the event of another sport-stopping lockdown.

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“Last season was decided on points per game so it’s important for us that we keep that high [in the league]. If it does come to that situation, we are then in a position to get ourselves up,” said Neilson, whose team play Inverness at Tynecastle on Saturday.

“We just need to keep playing football matches for as long as possible and whatever will be, will be. No-one knows what is going to happen with Coronavirus. Will the ‘R’ number go up? Will we go into lockdown like in England?

“The biggest thing for me was the season starting. Some fans are being allowed into grounds for Ross County and the Highland League, which is a step in the right direction.

“Ultimately, we just need to take it week-in, week-out and ensure that, as a club, the players are sticking to the protocols and ensuring they are available.

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“We had a great result last week but ultimately we are here to win the league. This is another league game coming up against Inverness, who are one of our main competitors this season. We have to make sure we get the three points.

“We spoke as soon as we came back in about forgetting about the Hibs game. You get a pat on the back but then you move on to the next three points.”

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