Robbie Neilson has hailed Danny Wilson as an “outstanding servant” to Hearts and insisted that the departing captain will go with the best wishes of everyone at the club.
Although contracted until the end of next season, it emerged over the weekend that the 23-year-old defender had triggered a clause which will allow him to leave for nothing at the end of this season.
He informed Hearts management of his decision last week and will now be free to move on this summer after collecting the Championship trophy in his last act as skipper after the final game of the season, at home to Rangers on Saturday week.
Wilson joined Hearts on loan from Liverpool in January 2013 and then signed a three-year contract with the Tynecastle club in June of that year even though they had just entered administration. He was immediately made captain, aged just 21, by former manager Gary Locke and has been a mainstay of the team for the past two seasons. However, the Scotland cap, who was subject of interest from Dundee United last summer and recently linked with Celtic, has now decided that his future lies away from Hearts even though they will return to the Premiership next season. Sources close to the player insist he has nothing lined up as yet.
“Danny’s decided he wants a new challenge and, as I’ve said previously, I’ll never stand in the way of any player who wants to move on so he goes with our blessing and our thanks,” head coach Neilson told Hearts’ website.
“He’s been an outstanding servant to this club and has played a vital part in its revival this season.
“Danny’s probably seen it all in the two and a half years that he’s been here, and probably had good cause to leave sooner if he had wished to do so. He took a pay cut during the bad times and was instrumental in helping to keep spirits up when things looked bleak; buying season tickets and donating them to club charity Big Hearts, and donating several raffle prizes for club events and then buying them back.
“He had options to go at the start of this season but he stayed because he wanted to see the job through and get us back to the top flight so for that I can’t thank him enough.”
Neilson is confident the departure of a player who has made 84 appearances and scored ten goals for Hearts will not derail their bid to make the top six of the Premiership next season.
“We’ll miss him on and off the park and he’s been a great captain but that’s football. Players join and players leave and we’re no different here at Hearts,” said Neilson.
“We’ll continue to work hard to assemble a squad that can challenge for a top-half spot in the Premiership.”