Robbie Neilson has told critics to lay off his former Hearts team-mate Paul Hartley ahead of his Dundee team visiting Tynecastle.
Questions are being asked with the club third bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership and without a win in their last seven games. However, Hearts head coach Neilson expressed his fellow manager’s predicament.
Strikers Kane Hemmings and Greg Stewart were both sold over the summer, robbing Dundee of a partnership which plundered 36 goals in total last season. Hartley has thus been left short of firepower up front, but Neilson today offered full support to the Dundee manager.
“I’ve definitely got sympathy for Paul. He’s lost his two key strikers, who scored nearly 40 goals last season. Any team losing that number of goals would find it difficult,” Neilson said.
“We felt it last year when we lost Osman Sow and he’d only scored 12 before he left in February. You take those goals out of the equation and it changes the whole dynamic of your team. It takes a while to settle down and get things going again. Dundee lost their two main strikers in the summer window so it’s always difficult to replace that.
“A club of Dundee’s stature can’t afford to go and spend £500,000 or more to get a guy who will score 20 goals. They have to work really hard to recruit and the timeframe for Paul to do that was short.
“Paul is a very good manager. He’s proved that at Alloa and he’s proved it at Dundee. There’s no real patience in football, that’s one of the problems with it at the moment. You need to give Paul time. He will build a team again.
“He built a really good team, got promoted and established Dundee in the Premiership. That team got dismantled because it did so well. People come and buy your best players. You then need time to build again. It doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes six months or a year minimum to rebuild a team.”
Dundee finished eighth in the league last season. Hartley recently hit back at criticism from outsiders and stressed he and his players were simply blocking out the carping.
“You receive loads of criticism and negativity and there are so many experts that want to write stuff, like former players who think they’re tacticians and are telling us what to do,” he said. “We just don’t listen to them and we won’t listen to them. I know we’ve got good players here. We totally believe in them and what they’re trying to do. Everybody has an opinion now on what we should be doing – as a manager, a group, and as players. But we just use that as a positive.
“It’s part and parcel of football nowadays that you have to receive criticism if you lose one or two games. It’s absolutely everywhere. There’s no escaping it. If you win one or two games everything is great but if you lose one or two, there’s so much negativity.”