HEARTS manager Robbie Neilson believes securing a top six Premiership finish next season would represent a greater achievement for his club than the emphatic Championship title success they celebrate today.
The trophy will be presented to Neilson’s squad after their final fixture of the campaign against Rangers at Tynecastle this lunchtime. But the Gorgie club are already focused on next season with owner Ann Budge setting a minimum target of finishing in the top six.
It is a challenge Neilson is happy to embrace but he has warned that the transition from the second tier of Scottish football will not be straightforward.
“We want to get into the top six, that’s the plan, and then push from there,” said Neilson. “It would probably be a better achievement than this season. It would be a harder achievement. The way the players have won the Championship this year has been fantastic. But we move on, and next season we need to go again and get into that top six.
“There is a big difference between Premiership and Championship. There are better players in the Premiership – better organised with bigger squads. They are fitter, stronger, faster.
“If you make a mistake in the Championship, a lot of the time you won’t get punished. If you make a mistake in the Premiership, you will get punished. So we have a lot of work to do over the summer, whether it is in recruitment or working with the players we have in pre-season, to give ourselves the best chance.”
So we have a lot of work to do over the summerRobbie Neilson
Neilson, one of the nominees for the PFA Scotland Manager of the Year award which will be announced tomorrow, takes inspiration from the work done by Paul Hartley at Dundee this season. “Paul managed to get them into the top six after coming up,” added Neilson. “I think he should be one of the Manager of the Year nominees for that, because to take a club from the Championship to the top six of the Premiership is a huge step.”