ROBBIE NEILSON insists a top-six finish is still the objective for his Hearts squad this season, despite being just two points behind second-placed Aberdeen following Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Ross County.
A second victory in six days put further distance between the Jambos and their Highland opponents in fourth place, with Neilson’s men six points behind league leaders Celtic following the champions’ 5-0 win over Dundee United yesterday.
Neilson was keen to play down any suggestion of a title challenge, emphasising the difficulty of maintaining the consistency required to match the Glasgow club – the Jambos’ League Cup quarter-final opponents at Tynecastle on Wednesday night – over the course of a season.
“It’s swung a fair bit in the last three weeks,” said Neilson, pictured above. “We won five in a row and we’re challenging, then we lost three or four and then we’re worrying about the top six. Now we’re talking about [challenging] again.
“We’re far, far away from Celtic. They are a team full of international footballers with experience of winning titles. We’re still a team that’s just been promoted. Yes, we had a great start but then we had a bit of a dip and now we’ve picked up again. Our aim at the start of the season was top six – it’s still the aim and that’s where we want to be. We’re not going to get carried away after back-to-back wins because we went four or five without a result, and that will happen again during the season.”
The head coach also revealed that the club are in the process of recruiting a new Under-20s coach and hope to make an appointment soon. Not only an important position in regard to developing young players for the first team, the incumbent is also viewed as a potential long-term successor to Neilson. Under the coach education policy introduced by director of football Craig Levein, Hearts hope to be able to develop and progress their own high-quality coaches in-house.
Former Under-20 coach Jack Ross, who arrived from Dumbarton in July 2014, left the club a fortnight ago. Neilson revealed the club have begun the search for his successor. “It’s something we’re looking at,” said Neilson. “We’ll get something sorted – hopefully soon, but I’ve got (Under 17s coach) Liam Fox at the moment, who’s covering it with Stevie Crawford so they’ll take care of that.”