The Jam Tarts get their league campaign underway tonight against Dundee at Tynecastle Park, and unlike six years ago when Hibs and Rangers were in the division, they start as heavy favourites.
Neilson’s first squad included the likes of Callum Paterson, Danny Wilson, Alim Ozturk, Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben and Osman Sow, plus Jamie Walker and Sam Nicholson.
They won the league with a record points total of 91, 21 ahead of second-place Hibs.
Neilson admits he sees “similarities” between this season’s squad and the class of 2014/15, but with no fans in attendance he is grateful for what he believes is a better team.
“The boys were great that year and some have moved on to some great careers in the game,” he said. “I’m pleased about that, it was a good group.
“But I see similarities with this group, there are a lot of young guys who are hungry to do well but also older, experienced boys who bring that know how.
“We had it previously with your Morgaro Gomis’, your Prince Buabens, guys who understood what we had to do week in, week out.
“It’s a big ask for players to do it weekly, but you have to do it when you’re here.
He added: "[Tynecastle] is a weapon. A lot of times teams will come and when they step out with 20,000 fans on top of them, a few of them crumble already.
"We don't have that this season but what we do have is a really good squad. A stronger squad than the last time we won the Championship so I expect us to win games."
The return of a favourite
Sow, who hit 12 goals in 2014/14, could play a part tonight having signed for Dundee. Someone Neilson knows “very well” having brought him to Hearts, as well as to MK Dons and Dundee United.
"He's had a difficult few years, the big man, with injuries and snapped his Achilles,” he said. “He's managed to get himself back fit.
"He's a top boy and after tonight, I hope he gets some game time and scores a lot of goals, but it's just good to see him back enjoying himself again."