Robbie Neilson has Hearts believing again

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Hearts were on the brink of liquidation three years ago after entering administration due to the disastrous ownership of Vladimir Romanov. The Lithuanian was a controversial figure during his nine years at the club, making a number of ill-judged comments and sacking popular managers, such as George Burley.

Towards the end of his reign at Tynecastle he failed to provide adequate finance to support the team, pushing them towards administration in the summer of 2013. The club was saved by a consortium as well as their supporters for raising enough capital through season tickets to keep the Edinburgh outfit alive for the 2013-14 campaign. Hearts’ eventual relegation from the Scottish Premiership was not unexpected, after beginning the season with a 15 point deduction and their struggles to put a quality outfit on the pitch due to their financial plight.

The remit for new manager Robbie Neilson was to rebuild in the second tier and attempt to break back into the top flight at the first time of asking and Hearts answered the call on the pitch with an outstanding campaign to win promotion as champions. Neilson’s men lost only three matches, keeping hold of top spot from week three all the way to the end of the campaign, finishing 21 points ahead of bitter rivals Hibernian in second place.

Their return to the Scottish Premiership was just as successful as the club finished in third place only behind Celtic and Aberdeen. Hearts made a number of prudent signings, including Juanma who scored 13 goals for the club to guide them back into Europe, as they qualified for the Europa League. Neilson’s side have maintained their strong form again this term, keeping pace with Celtic and Aberdeen in the early stages of the campaign. Juanma’s departure on loan could have caused problems in the final third, but goals have not been an issue for Hearts thus far this season.

Although they have made progress under Neilson, Hearts have a challenge to wrestle the dominance of Scottish football away from Celtic and the club are backed at 50/1 in the latest Bet365 Scottish football betting odds to win the top-flight crown. However, they do have a strong chance of finishing behind the Bhoys in second place in their battle against Aberdeen.

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Hearts held the Dons to a goalless draw in their clash at Pittodrie earlier this season, while they were only defeated by Celtic 2-1 at Tynecastle. The results suggest there is little between the clubs at the top, but Neilson’s men will have to remain consistent against the other teams in the division as losses like their 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone could see them finish behind Derek McInnes’ men once again.

Goals have not been an issue for Hearts due to the form of Sam Nicholson and surprisingly full-back Callum Paterson. Both players have notched three goals apiece this term, easing the pressure on Tony Watt and Conor Sammon leading the line, with the strikers struggling to fire for the Jambos. Neilson’s men have the best defensive record in the Premiership, and should that continue to be the case for the rest of the campaign then they have an excellent chance to better their finish of the 2015-16 season, pending Sammon and Watt’s return to form in front of goal.

 

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