ALEX Miller has given a glowing assessment of Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson as the Tynecastle men aim to effectively close out the Championship title with a victory over Rangers on Friday.
Miller, the former Hibs and Aberdeen boss who worked under Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez at Liverpool and was Craig Brown’s lieutenant with the Scottish national team, has been hugely impressed by the way Neilson has gone about his first top-team job since replacing Gary Locke in the summer.
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Neilson can take Hearts 16 points clear and out of sight if they beat Rangers for a third time this season at Ibrox on Friday evening.
Miller spent 13 years at Ibrox and won two trebles under Jock Wallace in the 1970s and would love to see his old club get back to the top flight. However, he has watched quite a few Hearts games this season and he believes that Neilson is showing great qualities as a coach.
Miller, now 65, is still immersed in football and pays his way in to watch a match every week and also keeps abreast of any new ideas.
He likes the way that Neilson adapts when the need presents itself, rather than simply playing the same way in every game and it’s something that has paid off handsomely so far.
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Miller said: “He seems to change his style depending on the opposition tactics.
“He understands what’s going on and adapts. A couple of weeks ago they were playing Alloa and he knew that Alloa sat in and made it difficult for teams and were great at defending the game.
“So he allowed them possession of the ball and let them attack and he counter-attacked and he got good success.
“I think Alloa were surprised that Hearts let them come on to them and it worked for Hearts that day.
“We did that at Liverpool once in a Champions League match against Galatasaray. We knew that they wanted to counter attack but we set up to lose the ball in certain areas to let them counter and then we countered the counter-attack, if you know what I mean. The plan was that we would win the ball back quickly and hit them on the break and it worked. We practised that for a couple of days.”
Miller was also a spectator at Hibs’ 4-0 hammering of Rangers on 27 December and was equally impressed with the way Alan Stubbs took advantage of Rangers’ deficiencies in that game.
He said: “The Rangers defence was very narrow that day and the Hibs full backs exploited the space all day long.
“Friday is probably the last chance for Rangers to do anything to prevent Hearts from running away with it. They have to win.”