Robbie Neilson breaks silence after Hearts sacking

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Robbie Neilson has spoken for the first time since being dismissed as Hearts manager on Sunday.

In a statement released via the League Manager’s Association, the 42-year-old said it had been “an honour” to manage the Tynecastle club and that he was “immensely proud” of what had been achieved during his second spell in charge.

Neilson won the Championship in his first season and secured group stage European football by guiding Hearts to third place and the Scottish Cup final in the team’s first season back in the top flight. He was hampered by a number of injuries to key players and a demanding schedule at the start this season. Hearts picked up form either side of Christmas and established a 10-point lead in third place before going into a tailspin in recent weeks.

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The former Dundee United and MK Dons boss, who is understood to be arranging a family holiday to re-charge his batteries, thanked chairperson Ann Budge, the board, the Foundation of Hearts and the fans. He also confirmed that, in time, he will start looking for “the next opportunity”.

Robbie Neilson has spoken out following his sacking as Hearts manager. Picture: Mark Scates / SNSRobbie Neilson has spoken out following his sacking as Hearts manager. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS
Robbie Neilson has spoken out following his sacking as Hearts manager. Picture: Mark Scates / SNS

His statement read: “I would like to thank Ann Budge and all of the board for giving me the opportunity to manage Heart of Midlothian over the past three seasons. We built a fantastic relationship and I will always have the utmost respect for them.

“My thanks also to the players and staff for their hard work and dedication. I have enjoyed working with you all and seeing you develop as both a team and as individuals. To my assistants, Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest, thank you for your unwavering support and dedication.

“Everything we achieved together, winning the Championship, two Scottish Cup finals, a third placed finish and securing European group stage football was with the superb support of the Hearts fans and the Foundation of Hearts. I thank you all for that. I am immensely proud of what we were able to achieve together. It has been an honour to be your manager.

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“I would like to wish everybody at the club the very best of luck as they seek to finish the season strongly and build on the strong foundations already in place. I’m now looking forward to having a chance to reflect, recharge and prepare for the next opportunity."

Hearts chief executive Andrew McKinlay has explained that the decision to sack Neilson was made on Sunday because “results and performances over the past seven weeks have been unacceptable”.

Five defeats on the bounce and six from the last seven games persuaded the board to act, Hearts slipping out of the top three for the first time this year by losing 2-0 at home to St Mirren at Tynecastle on Sunday. Steven Naismith has been put in charge until the end of the season, supported by Gordon Forrest and Frank McAvoy, after the club confirmed on Monday the departure of assistant manager Lee McCulloch.