Neil Alexander is adamant Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson is Scottish football’s true manager of the year – regardless of who wins the award.
Neilson has been named on the four-man shortlist for the prestigious PFA Scotland prize after guiding Hearts through an imperious Championship campaign, leading them to a record points haul and leaving Hibernian and Rangers in their wake.
Robbie Neilson is head and shoulders above, especially for a young manager in his first season.Neil Alexander
The rookie coach will battle it out with Celtic manager Ronny Deila, Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes and John Hughes, who has guided Inverness Caley Thistle to the Scottish Cup final.
While appreciative of the merits of all the candidates, Alexander says the decision is a no-brainer.
The goalkeeper said: “Even if he doesn’t get the award, he is still the winner in my eyes. To win the league in 29 games is phenomenal in itself and to do it by breaking the highest points ever in the second tier in Scotland is incredible.
“Ronny Deila and the double is a fantastic season, and John Hughes has had a great season at Inverness. Derek McInnes has done phenomenally to have Aberdeen still competing with Celtic. But Robbie Neilson is head and shoulders above, especially for a young manager in his first season.”
Alexander has enjoyed a different perspective on Neilson’s qualities, given he combines his playing duties with a place on the Hearts back-room staff as goalkeeping coach. And the dual role has opened his eyes to the head coach’s abilities and work ethic.
“I see the work and dedication, the fine details he puts into facing every team and player,” Alexander said. “I know he’s in there morning to night. He’s always thinking about football, he never switches off. He does things I never even thought about when I was a player.”