Hearts boss has say on Liam Boyce situation after decision to take break

Robbie Neilson is delighted to reap the benefit of Liam Boyce’s decision to take a break from the Northern Ireland international side prior to this weekend’s table- topping clash at Ibrox.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson and striker Liam Boyce.

The Hearts manager fully supports Boyce’s decision to ask to be excluded from recent squads. It means he missed last night’s trip to Bulgaria as well as Saturday’s 2-0 loss against Switzerland in Geneva.

The striker has scored ten goals already in Hearts’ unbeaten start to the season after being asked to be left out of the Northern Ireland squads due to family reasons. His wife recently gave birth to daughter Scout, their second child.

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Neilson said he was happy that Boyce wanted “to focus on Hearts” for the time being and said it was his understanding that the door was being left open for the 28-times capped striker.

The Hearts manager was speaking before this weekend’s trip to face leaders Rangers and he reflected on the positives of coming into such a big game on the back of an international window.

“John Souttar is back and fully fit and the rest of them should be fine,” he said.

“Josh Ginnelly picked up a wee knock in the bounce game we had last Thursday but he should hopefully be ok. So it’s all good.

“The international break has helped in that respect,” he added. “Liam and Michael (Smith) didn’t go away with Northern Ireland which was good, so the only one we have had away is Craig (Gordon), who we’ll get back on Thursday.

“Liam is at that age now where he wants to focus on Hearts. I think the door is still open if he wants to go back.

“But he just felt it was right to concentrate on us just now. I back him on that.

"He is getting to the age where it’s difficult to do these trips away and continue to play week in, week out. I’m pleased he’s decided to do it.”

Neilson added that Hearts’ focus was all on winning at Ibrox this weekend.

“We’d like to but it’s easier said than done," he said. "That’s the objective for everyone, if you want to try and finish near the top of the league you have to go to Glasgow and win.”