Robbie Neilson poses new question to Hearts as he pinpoints 'massive' match coming up after Livingston win
Robbie Neilson identified Hearts’ recruitment as key to their early-season progress following Saturday’s 3-0 win against Livingston.
The Edinburgh club moved second in the Scottish Premiership with goals from Michael Smith and Alex Cochrane either side of a Liam Boyce penalty.
Australian midfielder Cameron Devlin delivered a standout performance on his Tynecastle Park debut and received a warm ovation from the home support at full-time.
Livingston made little impact in the game after a demanding week in which they played Celtic at home and Rangers away. Their players looked slightly fatigued and Hearts took full advantage to stretch their unbeaten Premiership run to seven matches.
“I was really pleased with the way we played. We’ve been like that in the majority of games we’ve played this season. Today was a day that the majority of things we’ve been working on came to fruition,” said manager Neilson.
Hearts explain why they consulted Celtic and Rangers over training plan for Zurich tie
Exclusive: Hibs injury boost as two players in contention for return against Rangers
Ken Buchanan: Statue of Scottish boxing legend unveiled on Edinburghs’s Leith Walk
Dreadful current form, change of manager and tactics, key players: Everything to know about FC Zurich ahead of clash with Hearts in Europa League play-off
Hears fans react: Cammy Devlin's energy; Lawrence Shankland's condition; Jorge Grant as a No10; Robbie Neilson's high standards
“Barrie McKay’s performance was the reason we brought him here. We’ve got Barrie, Gary Mackay-Steven, Ben Woodburn, Jamie Walker and Josh Ginnelly, so that keeps everyone fresh and ready to go. He did well.
“When I came in at the start of last season we’d the oldest squad in the Championship and the plan was to get the squad a lot younger and more energetic, more mobile.
“Cammy Devlin is another piece in the jigsaw. He’s 23, he’s got energy, pace, mobility and he can deal with the ball. I’ve been pleased with the ones that came in.
“Livingston have had tough games – Sunday Wednesday Saturday, against Celtic, Rangers and Hearts. So we knew it would be important to bring energy that would allow us to dominate the game. I think we’ve a decent squad here now. All in all, it’s been a good day.
“The recruitment’s been really good this year. Hearts in the Premiership, you’re far more appealing than when you’re Hearts in the Championship. We’ve managed to recruit the right players, the right types of players.
"Every single one of our 20-man squad could play in the team. If you’d asked me a couple of months ago, we were sitting with 12-13 players and if we’d got a couple of injuries we’d have been struggling.
“Now we’ve got competition. It’s nice to be where we are but we’re only seven games in and how we respond to the lows will be the next question.”
Neilson reported that winger Josh Ginnelly and centre-back John Souttar did not feature against Livingston because of minor injury niggles. With Motherwell due at Tynecastle next week, he chose the precautionary approach with both players.
“Next week’s going to massive for us. Motherwell got another three points today, they’ve had a brilliant start to the season and they’ll fancy their chances coming to Tynecastle. But these are the games we want to be involved in.
“Souttar could’ve made it today but might have aggravated it, he’ll be fine for next week. Craig Halkett got a wee head knock, he was a bit wheezy so we took him off.”