Hearts boss Robbie Neilson insists that jeering from a section of the club support won’t rattle John Souttar as he continues to play for the club.
The defender has made himself unpopular with some Hearts fans after he agreed a pre-contract deal to join Rangers this summer, and his every touch of the ball was booed during the team’s 2-0 victory over St Johnstone.
Some fans showed support for the player as he was continually jeered by others but Neilson doesn’t think that being singled out for boos will affect the player at all.
“John is a strong, strong character mentally,” he said. “He has come back from three career threatening injuries – I only know two or three people who have come back from a single Achilles rupture, never mind three.
“So you know that he can blank the background noise out and just get on with the game and I thought he played very well today.
“I have said all along that the club is bigger than any individual and the focus has always got to be about progressing the club forward.
“It is about getting the three points, European qualification and winning cups and that has got to be the end goal for us all.
“Whether it is the end of the season that John goes, there is always going to be that in the background but we have got to focus on what is best for the club and that is winning football matches and putting the best team that we can out to win football matches.
“There has been no contact [from Rangers] so the case is that John is a Hearts player.”
Asked if the jeers might affect the team, Neilson wasn’t minded to be too critical of fans making their unhappiness known.
He said: “Look everyone has their own opinion – you pay your money, you come along and to an extent you can say what you want.
“John understands the situation. Can it be a distraction? We won 2-0 so hopefully not.”
Two goals from Josh Ginnelly had given Hearts a win and with Motherwell losing in Dingwall, the side’s third-place position was strengthened.
“These are the best nights, when you come in after the game and teams have dropped points here and there and you get yourself a bit further up,” Neilson said.
“We are eight clear in third place. The aim for us now has to be up the way. We are nine behind Celtic. We’ve got them here in the next league game and it’s a chance to get a wee bit closer again.”
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson said: “The first half was even.
“There were good signs there in the first half. We worked really hard on our shape, our discipline and our transition. I thought we did that really well.
“You go in at half-time and basically say to the players: ‘Go and do that again’. Then we’re 30 yards into their half and five seconds later we’re 1-0 down. It was really disappointing. And the second goal was the same. We were attacking and five seconds later we’ve been done on the counter again. It’s hard to take.
“The players put a lot into the game but we can’t concede goals like that – especially with the position we’re in – at a place like Tynecastle.”