Robbie Neilson backs Gordon Strachan’s continuity for Scotland

Robbie Neilson has seen his younger players gain international experience. Picture: SNS.

Robbie Neilson has seen his younger players gain international experience. Picture: SNS.

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has spoken out in support of Gordon Strachan, saying he is happy to see him stay on as Scotland boss and claiming his removal would have served little purpose.

“I know there’s been a lot of negativity about Scotland. But it’s important that we keep some continuity there with Gordon. He’s a good coach, probably the best for the job at the moment – and it’s a tough job.

“As a manager here I get a lot of time with the players but you go away on international duty and you’re lucky if you get a couple of days with the players so it’s very difficult to prepare the team.

“Gordon has experience of doing that now. I think we’ve got to get behind him. I said before the England game that it was important to support not just the players but the structure behind them. Chopping and changing doesn’t help. If you look at the stats at any level, changing a manager very rarely makes much of a difference. You might get a hit for one game but it soon goes back.”

Having spoken about the demands of the position with Strachan’s predecessor, Craig Levein, who is now Hearts’ director of football, Neilson believes that more understanding is needed.

“It’s a big jump to go from club football to international football, because you get no time to prepare – and there is a long wait for the next game,” he added. “Our next international game is in March and in that time, he won’t have any time on the pitch, no time to prep the players. So it’s a really tough job – and a job that Gordon is very good at. He gets the players behind him. We’ve just got to try to back him.”

Since becoming Scotland manager, Strachan has promoted both Callum Paterson and Jack Hamilton to the senior squad, and Neilson, whose team will have to wait until Monday to take on Hamilton Accies after key road closures forced a postponement of this weekend’s fixture, said that Strachan’s willingness to develop young players will benefit the nation as well as granting the Tynecastle club extra kudos.

“Gordon obviously likes them, which is great,” said Neilson “It hopefully means they will now stay in the squad – which is a positive for us. We’ve got two guys into his squad – hopefully we get a few more in.”

As well as the players who spent the international break on Scotland duty – with the full squad and the under-21s – Neilson was pleased to see Faycal Rherras and Arnaud Djoum involved with Morocco and Cameroon respectively. “They’ve come back in good spirits,” he said. “Rherras started against Togo and did well, he played 45 minutes. Arnaud didn’t get any game time but I think he was pleased just to be involved in the hope he can get into the African Cup of Nations squad.

“We have brought in two guys who weren’t internationals and they’ve come here, done well and they’ve got into their international squads. So, when we’re trying to recruit other players, we can show what they have managed to do by coming here.”

Their advancement means Neilson could be without their services at the start of the new year, if they are involved in the African Nations cup. But he says it may only be a minor inconvenience, depending on how the countries fare.

“If they make it right the way through they will only miss two or three games at most due to the [winter] break. I was speaking to Arnaud about it and if he makes the squad they meet up on 2 January, and they should finish on 3 February. So it isn’t that long and it is pleasing for them. We just need to deal with it.”

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