Robbie Neilson intends to use Hearts’ sense of injustice over relegation as a tool to lead the side to Championship success.
Neilson has returned to Tynecastle for a second spell as manager after leaving newly-promoted Dundee United. He rejoins the club in a time of turmoil as Hearts fight against the relegation that was imposed when the SPFL cut short last season because of coronavirus, and finished the league on a points per game basis.
After taking the matter to court, Hearts have been told that the issue will now be settled by a Scottish FA-convened arbitration panel but as things stand Neilson is preparing the team to fight for promotion from the Championship.
He believes the anger felt by players, staff and fans can be harnessed and used to propel the team forward.
“We’ll use it as a motivation,” Neilson said.
“Definitely – I think everyone would. I think it’s important that we stick together as a group and we’ll do that as we did previously. It’s been a difficult few years for everyone but now it’s a fresh start and we can move forward.
“Ultimately, it’s about winning matches and I believe we have a squad here who can do that.
“There’s a disappointment about the way things have turned out. Is it an anger? That’s a bit of a strong word to say but there’s definitely a motivation to put it right.
“A few managers have spoken about if their club was put in the same situation, they’d expect them to do exactly what we’re doing, so I think it’s important we went down the route we did.
“We’re still going to keep pushing hard to get the result we want.”
Neilson’s previous spell in the dugout at Tynecastle came after the team was relegated following administration in 2014. He sees the feelings around the club then as a model for the current situation.
“I think one of the biggest things is the togetherness of the club as a whole, whether it be players, coaches, staff or fans,” he said. “Everyone has to pull in the same direction. My hope is that the issues that we’ve had in the past few months mean we have a cause now, to push forward with togetherness.
“I think that’s one of the most important things that we had previously here when we got relegated and had a Championship season. I think that’s the most important thing.
“The support from the fans filters on to the pitch and that reciprocates and we get good performances. That’s one of my main jobs at the start is to get the players and fans together.”
Neilson was talking to the media on the day that the Premiership fixtures were announced and his former side Dundee United found out how they would start the season after being promoted.
He admitted it had abeen a wrench to leave Tannadice after securing the Championship title but said Hearts had a special pull for him.
“I have a great affinity with Hearts,” he said. “I was here as a player for a long time as well as a manager.
“I felt it was the right one to come back to. If it had been any other club it would have been a different story but when Ann [Budge] made contact I felt it was the right move for me.
“It was difficult to leave Dundee United, to be honest, because of the relationship I had with the players, the fans and the staff.
“But when Hearts came along it was always going to be difficult to turn it down.”