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Naismith is ’50/50′ on whether to play another season, says Neilson

The Hearts boss says he'll back the veteran striker whatever he decides.

Naismith is ’50/50′ on whether to play another season, says Neilson SNS Group

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has revealed that he’s apoken with Steven Naismith about his future – and says it’s ’50/50′ whether the striker will retire this season.

Naismith lifted the Championship trophy on Saturday after Hearts sealed promotion back to the Premiership, but said after the game that he would make a definitieve decision in the summer.

The former Soctland international, who will turn 35 at the start of next season and has suffered a number of injuries during his career, said that the physical toll increases every season but that he was enjoyuing his time at Tynecastle.

Neilson admitted that Naismith has been to speak to him as he pondered his future but said that the forward would have his support regardless of the conclusion.

“We had a chat about it a few days ago,” he said. “Steven came to speak to me to let me know what his thoughts were.

“He’s earned the right to decide what he wants to do in the summer and we’ll back him either way.

“He’s had a fantastic career and he’s been great for us this season. His leadership has been there on and off the pitch.

“Now he’s at that stage in his career where he has to make a decision. We’ll wait and see.”

Neilson will revamp his squad this summer to deal with the demands of a return to the top flight but he underlined the importance of experience that players like Naismith bring to the squad.

“Off the pitch he’s fantastic, his leadership and just his presence around the place,” he said. “It’s similar to Craig Gordon in that he’s played at the highest level and in the biggest games.

“On the pitch he’s probably not played as much as he would have like to because of injury, but when he has he’s brought calmness and assuredness to the team.

“That’ll be missed if he decides he’s not going to continue to play.

“He’s 50/50.

“You have days when you’re at Steven’s age when you come in and you feel like you’re 21 years old. Then there’s days when you feel 51.”