Hearts boss Robbie Neilson says that rewarding the club’s fans is the main motivation for his side when they face FC Zurich on Thursday.
The sides meet at Tynecastle in the decisive second leg of their Europa League play-off, with Zurich holding a slender 2-1 lead after last week’s game in Switzerland.
Hearts will be relying on a noisy backing from a sold-out stadium as they look to overturn the deficit, and Neilson says that those supporters should be watching a successful team after saving it from financial collapse and backing the players through a turbulent few years.
“It’s probably the biggest driver for us all at the club, playing staff and coaching staff,” Neilson said. “The fans here, of any fans in the world, are the ones that deserve it.
“They put their hands in their pocket, saved their club. They’ve been through administration, demotion, getting brought back up again into the top flight and then getting top six and European football.
“Last week was brilliant, just seeing the fans over there. Hopefully tomorrow night the ones that couldn’t make it enjoy it and then we’ve got a draw and three more trips away and three home games. They’ve certainly earned it.”
Neilson says he has learned a lot from going up against Zurich in the first leg, and is well aware of their technical ability and counter-attacking threat.
However, with a noisy atmosphere inside Tynecastle, he feels his team should be on the front foot and giving the fans something to roar about to maximise the benefit of being at home.
“We have to use the atmosphere to our advantage,” he said. “Away goals don’t count any more so it’s a straight shoot-out now.
“We’re a goal behind so we have to go and take the game to them. I would expect them to try and manage the game and try and counter-attack because they are very, very good at it. So we have to try and manage that as well.
“But with 20,000 fans here, they want to see us perform and we need to make sure we start the game well.
“We’ve done all right so far this season. There’s certain periods of games, and full games, where we could have done a lot better but we’re in a good place at the moment.
“We do know that tomorrow night is going to be tough. They’re the Swiss champions and they played well against us over there.
“But we’ve got something to play for tomorrow.”