Robbie Neilson urges all at Hearts to remain positive with title within touching distance
Robbie Neilson is urging all involved with Hearts to remain positive during the challenging period the club faces as they stand on the cusp of winning the Championship.
The Jambos can clinch the title and secure promotion back to the top-flight if they defeat Alloa at Tynecastle on Friday night and both Raith Rovers and Dundee fail to defeat Arbroath and Morton respectively the following day.
Despite leading the league by 11 points, Hearts supporters are disgruntled by performance levels from the team and crashing out of the Scottish Cup to Brora Rangers last week, which has intensified pressure on Neilson, his players and the club’s board.
Neilson accepts and understands the discontent from the fanbase but, with the title now within touching distance, wants everyone to remember that they are in a strong position.
"I think everyone in football is having a tough time of it at the moment,” Neilson told the Evening News. “If you look at all the teams in our league ... if you look at Stevie [Crawford], and I know Stevie well, he's coming off the back of four or five defeats. There's the negativity there. Dundee are the same, they've got beaten in the Scottish Cup. Negativity. Raith Rovers have had a great start to the season, fell away under John, then negativity. It just seems to be at this moment, with the way the world is right now, it's getting focused on in football because there not much else to do, is there? So we've got to try and keep a bit of positivity within the group, but also within the club and externally as well and say, look, we are sitting in a great position.
"If you'd asked us at the start of the season if we'd be in this position with four games to go, then I'd have probably taken it because when you come into a season with the Covid issues, no fans here and everything is difficult, you just don't know what you're going to get.”
Neilson believes a lot of the frustration comes from the fact that supporters are not able to attend matches in person and that there is a general fatigue from watching matches at home on a computer.
"One hundred per cent,” Neilson responded when asked if that is a factor. “When you come to a football match, whether it's home or away, you'll go and meet your pals, you'll socialise, you'll come and watch the game, you'll talk about it. If it's a win, it's excitement, if you lose then you release that annoyance right away and then you go home, you talk about it, you go to the pub and talk about it.
"The problem we have at the moment is that everyone is sitting on the laptop in the house. And I watch games on the laptop and believe me, even when I'm watching Man City or Barcelona, I'm ready to switch off after 20 minutes. It's just difficult for everyone at the moment, but we have to try and remain positive, get ourselves over the line and get punters back [into stadia] as soon as possible."