ROBBIE NEILSON insists the gap between Hearts and Celtic is closing – but admits he would still swap places with the Glasgow club to sit top of the Scottish Premiership.
Ronny Deila, the Celtic manager, is under pressure ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Tynecastle as some fans have launched a petition to have him sacked.
“People talk about them having a wobble but they’re still sitting top of the league. They’ve still got a game in hand,” said Neilson. “I wouldn’t mind having a wobble like that through the season. If we were in the same position, I would take it.”
Neilson believes clubs like Hearts and Aberdeen are closing in on the champions, although he acknowledged that Celtic’s financial power could kick in again when Rangers return to Scotland’s top flight.
“I think everyone is getting closer,” said Neilson. “When you look at the results, over the course of the last five or six years, people have started to get closer and closer to them. Their budget has started to come a wee bit closer, although it’s still huge.
“Celtic aren’t going out and signing guys for six, seven or eight million pounds any more. They’re becoming more of a development team where they bring guys in for two and three million. The difference between a ten million pound player and a two million pound player is big. That makes it slightly closer. It’s still a huge divide but not to the extent it was five years ago.”
That situation could well change if a challenge is offered from across the other side of Glasgow.
“It depends what Celtic decide to do. At the moment they look as if they are starting to become a development team, bringing young players in and trying to develop them while still trying to retain that consistency of winning leagues and getting into the Champions League.
“It’s dependent on the way they want to take the club forward. I think we’ll see a difference when Rangers eventually come back up. It might force them to spend a little bit more which would then make the divide bigger again.”