HEARTS have vowed to back head coach Robbie Neilson after he was served with a notice of complaint by the Scottish FA for comments he made in the wake of last month’s defeat by Hamilton.
Neilson criticised referee Willie Collum’s decision to send off defender Callum Paterson and claimed he had trained his team in preparation for playing with ten men when he found out who was going to take charge of the match. Hearts were leading 2-1 when Paterson was dismissed and went on to lose 3-2.
The coach appeared to be vindicated when Hearts won an appeal against Paterson’s red card which was reduced to a yellow. It was the third time in eight months that a red card issued by Collum had been overturned.
But the SFA compliance officer Tony McGlennan has still meted out a disciplinary charge, stating that Neilson had “criticised the performance of the match officials in such a way as to indicate bias or incompetence on their part”, breaching the SFA’s Disciplinary Rule 72.
It is an accusation Hearts refute, and they confirmed yesterday that they will be “formally appealing against this Notice of Complaint”.
Neilson reiterated his stance last week when he revealed he had been contacted by the SFA.
“I’ve just said exactly what I think,” he said. “The stats are there to back it up. I didn’t question any integrity, I didn’t comment on a performance. The stats are there for everyone to see if you do your homework.”
The statistics show that in the last six Hearts games refereed by Collum, he has sent off four Hearts players, with nine being dismissed in the last 36.
But, despite those figures, the compliance officer appears to have taken umbrage at Neilson stating that he prepared his players for the possibility of going down to ten men after learning who would be officiating.
At the time he said they had looked at which referee would be handling the match and honed training accordingly, including playing 10 v 11 games.
Neilson’s case will be heard at Hampden on 1 October.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager John Hughes has also been issued with a notice of complaint for allegedly breaching Disciplinary Rule 72.
After the 1-1 draw with Dundee at Dens Park, Hughes said referee Andrew Dallas brought an “edginess and a nervousness” to the game and was not “ready to referee top-flight football”.
Hughes has until 22 September to respond, with the hearing also scheduled for 1 October.