Robbie Neilson ‘would love to keep’ John Souttar, but admits it may come down to cash

Robbie Neilson hopes John Souttar sees Hearts as the ideal platform to maintain his Scotland ambitions.

By Gavin McCafferty
Thursday, 18th November 2021, 5:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th November 2021, 5:50 pm
Robbie Neilson and John Souttar are all smiles at Hearts training today

Souttar scored and won man of the match on Monday in his first international for three years as Scotland beat Denmark to set up a Hampden semi-final in the World Cup play-offs.

With a potential finals place in Qatar to aim for in 12 months' time, Neilson is hopeful that Souttar can appreciate the opportunities that playing for Hearts can bring.

The 25-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and Hearts are trying to persuade the defender to sign a new deal.

Sign up to our Hearts newsletter

John Souttar back training with Hearts after his Scotland exploits

When asked if that task had been made more difficult by his international exploits, Neilson said: "I don't think it will put him in (the spotlight) any more. A lot of teams know about John.

"They key for John is playing consistently week in, week out, which we are giving him that opportunity to do here, and hopefully we can continue to do that.

"Playing week in, week out for Hearts at the top end of the league, playing in big games, allows him to get into the national team. And hopefully he sees that.

"As with any players that are doing well, and the team is doing well at the top end of the league, and we have some international players, there is always going to be clubs that are interested in them.

John Souttar enjoys being back with his Hearts teammates after starring for Scotland on Monday

"My job is to make sure he is ready for Saturday and the following Saturday and as a club we try and get these guys tied up.

"We are working away in the background with a number of players to try and get things moving forward because we would like to build a team here. But, as you all know, in football it can take time.

"Obviously it depends where we go financially but I would love to keep him because he is a top person to have about and also a very good footballer."

Souttar missed the vast majority of the previous two seasons with ankle and Achilles injuries having ruptured his other Achilles earlier in his Hearts career.

"It's been a tough few years for John," said Neilson. "Getting consistency of fitness has been the key.

"The majority of guys who have been out for a long time like that, if you can't work on your lower body, you work on your upper body. So it has given John that opportunity to bulk himself up a wee bit.

"I still think there is more to come from John. He is playing at a really good level just now but I still think there is a wee bit more there that we can get out of him."

The former Dundee United player's improved aerial ability was evident at Hampden as he headed home against the Danes and made a series of clearances late in the game, and he also headed a winner against Celtic earlier this season.

"When I signed him here, that was probably one of his deficiencies," Neilson said. "But, with training and also just developing as a player and experiencing more, he has definitely got better and it is probably one of the strongest aspects of his game now."