HEARTS head coach Robbie Neilson could be forced to justify his verbal attack on referee Willie Collum in the aftermath of Saturday’s Premiership defeat at the hands of Hamilton. The game’s authorities are expected to analyse the comments today to decide whether he has a case to answer.
The defeat halted the capital side’s winning run and inflicted their first Premiership loss since returning to the top flight this season. It also cost them their place at the top of the league table and the Hearts manager was in no doubt that they had been harshly dealt with, claiming the second-half dismissal of defender Callum Paterson had swung the game in the home side’s favour.
After attempting to discuss that matter with Collum after the match, it is understood that the club, despite their insistence that the ruling was wrong and influenced unfairly by the Hamilton players, may not appeal the refereeing decision. Unhappy with the red card, Neilson was even more dismayed by the fact he had predicted the match official would brandish the card at some stage of the 90 minutes and revealed he and his coaching staff had even prepared his men for such an eventuality.
“Every game we get a referee, we look at the stats and what way they referee the game. This game, with the officials we were getting, we knew there was a high probability of a man being sent off and it’s happened again.”
It is not the first time the Tynecastle manager has adopted such a stance. Ahead of last season’s Championship opener at Ibrox he drilled his men in ten v 11 matches, fully aware that the previous six head to heads had resulted in three red cards for the capital outfit.
He said that he was fearful that history could repeat itself and his players could find themselves at a numerical disadvantage. The referee that day was Craig Thomson.
During Saturday’s media debrief, the Hearts manager said he was being cautious with his words as he did not want to risk the wrath of the SFA’s compliance officer and face a spell in the stands. But it is understood that Tony McGlennan will be scrutinising his outburst before deciding whether to issue the 35-year-old with a notice of complaint.
An SFA spokesman said that Neilson’s comments would have to fall within the parameter of inferring bias and/or incompetence on the part of the match referee before any action could be taken. Neilson would undoubtedly argue he was merely referring to statistics, which are there for everyone to see.
If cited, it would not be the first time the Gorgie gaffer had to face the SFA judicial panel. In June he successfully appealed a pitchside ban, escaping with a censure after he was sent to the stand during the final match of the Championship season for abusing an opposition player.