Robbie Neilson looking for quality not quantity

Robbie Neilson back on the training field at Riccarton as Hearts' Premiership preparations begin. Picture: SNS Group

Robbie Neilson back on the training field at Riccarton as Hearts' Premiership preparations begin. Picture: SNS Group

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Robbie Neilson is confident Hearts will soon have their transfer activity wrapped up because they are looking to add quality rather than quantity this summer.

Polish defender Blazej Augustyn and former Queen of the South striker Gavin Reilly have signed over the past week, while Spanish forward Juanma Delgado is expected to finalise a deal imminently.

I’d envisage two, possibly three, more signings at the most. We don’t need a lot

Robbie Neilson

Beyond this trio, Neilson is anticipating only another couple of new additions and hopes to have all his recruitment concluded well before Hearts kick off their Ladbrokes Premiership campaign at home to St Johnstone five weeks on Saturday.

“I’d envisage two, possibly three more at the most,” said the head coach. “We don’t need a lot. It’s just bringing in quality that will add to the squad. I’d like to think we’ll get what we want in the next couple of weeks. That would give us a bit of time to prepare. You want to get boys in early, but you don’t want to rush things. You want to make sure the guys you want are the ones you get in. At the moment, we’re on course to do that.”

Augustyn has represented relatively high-calibre clubs in the past, but his progress has been been hindered by injury problems. However, Neilson believes the Pole has enough quality to be worth taking a chance on. “He’s somebody we’d heard about a while ago,” said the head coach. “He’s a good player. He’s got a physical presence at 6ft 3in, he’s quick, strong in the air, aggressive, good tackler, good passer of the ball. He’s got all the attributes to be a top player.

“He’s had two cruciate injuries in both his knees, but we’re in Scotland so, as I’ve said before, we’re not going to get top players who haven’t had some kind of issue in the past. He’s played in Serie A at a good level. He’s played in the Polish league and in England, so he’s got a good pedigree. It’s our job to try and manage him to make sure we get the best out of him.”

Neilson is hoping that Reilly, the 22-year-old who scored 15 goals with Queens last season, can also continue his progress at Hearts. “We’d been working on getting Gavin in since 
before the end of last season, so we were delighted to get him tied up. I think he’s one of the better young strikers in Scotland. He scored a lot of big goals in big games.

“You can see right away in training the quality he brings. He’s got energy and a willingness to press and harry and score goals. He’s got great potential and working with [Hearts assistant] Stevie Crawford will only help him score goals.”

While Neilson does not foresee many new faces coming in, he doesn’t expect many more to leave either. Homegrown pair Jamie Walker and Jordan McGhee have been linked with moves away from Tynecastle in recent seasons, but Neilson is not envisaging any approaches for any of his players.

“The English market shuts down until about the start of July because everybody’s on 
holiday, but I don’t think we’ll get many bids in,” he said. “If we do, we’re in a good position where we don’t need to sell. We’ll decide if anything comes in whether it’s something we want to do. ”

One of those who has already left from last season’s Championship-winning squad is captain Danny Wilson. The 23-year-old opted in April to move on and will again play in the second tier after agreeing to rejoin Rangers. The move has prompted questions about Wilson’s ambition, but Neilson has nothing but respect for his old skipper.

“I’m pleased for Danny,” he said. “He did fantastic for us last season and to get a three-year contract at a club like Rangers is great for him. I’m sure he’ll do well. Danny made his decision, so what will be will be. I have a great relationship with Danny. He was great for me and I wouldn’t say anything bad about him at all. I think he’s a great guy. He could’ve left Hearts [last summer] but decided to stay and got the club promoted. We wish him all the best. Whenever he comes back here, he’ll be held in high esteem.”

Neilson knows Wilson’s new manager at Rangers, Mark Warburton, from his time on loan at Brentford from Leicester City in 2011, and Hearts’ head coach expects him to revive the Ibrox club’s fortunes. “Mark’s a very good manager,” he said. “Tactically, he’s very good and he’s a good guy. I was at Brentford for six months as a player and Mark was the assistant manager. I got on really well with him. I’m sure he’ll do a good job at Rangers.”

After returning from the Czech Republic, where he had to attend matches at the European Under-21 Championships as part of his Pro Licence, Neilson is thrilled to have his players back out on the training pitch. “Stevie Crawford and I were speaking about it when the boys were doing the warm-up on the first day – it’s great just to get back out on the training field.

“You hang about while everything’s getting prepared, you’re desperate to get players in, you get them in, then you just want to see them out on the pitch [for matches]. We’re back in for double sessions and then that’s us right through until we go to Ireland next week. We’ve got a couple of games over there, which will be difficult.

“The Irish league is running now, so we’ll be nine days into pre-season and going to play two competitive games. It will be good for the players.”

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