Hearts boss Robbie Neilson breaks silence on 'disappointing' Tynecastle graffiti with defiant message to critics
The travelling Jambos fans vented their fury at Rugby Park on Saturday after their side's fourth straight loss allowed Aberdeen to close the gap to one point in the race for third place in the cinch Premiership.
Social media was awash with calls for Neilson to be sacked in the aftermath of the result with pictures on Sunday showing a message spray painted over the club crest on the Foundation of Hearts Plaza outside the stadium which read "f... off Neilson".
However, the under-fire Hearts boss – who was also infamously targeted with an aeroplane banner during his first spell in charge – has backed his side to ride out their current slump and secure a third place finish in a defiant message to his critics.
“There are other ways to vent your frustration nowadays,” he said. “It was disappointing but it’s a very small minority who have done it.
“We were at a Federation of Hearts Supporters do on Sunday and we had about 500 fans there who were outstanding with the players and the coaching staff.
“It’s like any football club when you have a period of negativity – and we’ve had three or four weeks of it now – there are always going to be these issues in the background. It’s about moving forward together.
“It’s disappointing that you’ve got graffiti there outside the football club, but ultimately it’s football nowadays. You’ve got to take that on the chin. If you’re at a big football club, if you lose a couple of games on the bounce, people will voice their opinion.
“You’ve just got to accept that, move on and hope it doesn’t happen again. The only way you can rectify it is by winning on Saturday.
“Every manager that’s had the longevity I’ve had, 300-400 games, will have ups and downs. The biggest thing in football, whether you’re a manager, a coach, or player, is to have the resilience to keep pushing forward and looking towards the next game.”
Hearts had looked a sure bet to claim a third-place finish and the chance of automatic European group-stage football next term after embarking on a 10-game unbeaten run through the winter, but results have tailed off dramatically in recent weeks. Neilson, whose side host St Mirren and Ross County either side of a derby at Hibs, is confident they remain on course to achieve their primary objective.
“I still think we’ll finish third,” he said. “That’s where we want to finish. We’re in third at the moment. We’ve got an opportunity on Saturday to hopefully extend that lead and then more opportunities after that to try and confirm it.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been well clear. It’s not like last season. When we came back after the World Cup break, we were four points behind. We managed to get a wee gap and it’s come down a bit but it’s a case of trying to build again and get it (the gap) up again.
“We’ve had a wee period where we’ve had some difficult games. We’ve now got a home game, we’ve got the derby – which takes care of itself – and then another home game before the split and it’s up to us to try and take maximum points. If we can do that, we’ll be sitting in a completely different position.”
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