Hearts boss Robbie Neilson 'surprised and disappointed' by Shaun Maloney's Hibs sacking

Former HIbs manager Shaun Maloney has received backing from an unexpected source, after capital derby rival Robbie Neilson expressed surprise and disappointment at the brevity of his counterpart’s Easter Road tenure.

It was arguably Neilson’s side who sealed Maloney’s fate with back to back derby victories denying the Leith outfit a place in the top six, and a shot at European qualification, as well as progress into the Scottish Cup final.

But despite bringing Hibs’ season to a miserable halt, Neilson was taken aback by the news the board had opted to sack their manager just four months after his appointment.

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“To be honest, I was surprised and, on a personal note, I was disappointed for Shaun because I know him pretty well.

“I spoke to him a few times when I was Dundee United manager and I think he is a really good coach. But it is the nature of the beast now. It’s just the way it is.

“He got very limited time to do anything, but the chairman makes a decision and you just have to take it on the chin.

“I’m sure he’ll come back stronger. I was the same at MK Dons when I got let go. It can hurt for a while, but it definitely makes you a better coach.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson (right) and Hibs manager Shaun Maloney during the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

While Maloney was ousted so soon into his three-and-a-half-year contract, Hearts are reaping the rewards of sticking by Neilson, even after last season’s ignominious cup defeat to Brora Rangers.

Back in the Premiership, they have earned a third-place finish and are guaranteed European football into December. And, they could yet wrap up a wonderful season by lifting silverware next month.

“Football is about two sides. It’s about long-term planning and having to win on a Saturday.

“If there’s a balance, it’s my job is to win on Saturday, but the people above me, their job is to look at the long-term structure as well.

“When that long-term becomes short term, it becomes difficult. It’s a longer term plan here. Even the qualification for Europe isn’t just: ‘That’s us we’ve done it’. It is: ‘What can we do in three years’ time? Five years’ time?’ And we try to grow the club.

“It takes time, but you don’t get time and that’s the disappointing thing about football.

“There are going to be ups and downs and that’s just the way it is. You are hoping you have that stability.”

Seeking to maintain winning momentum and stability within the squad, Neilson says he would love to keep loanees Ellis Simms, Alex Cochrane and Ben Woodburn but is at the mercy of parent clubs Everton, Brighton and Liverpool.

“We have spoken about it in general but, with loan deals, especially from England, it tends to be July, even August before we get them, so we need to look at other targets and decide ‘do we wait for that one, or go for this one?’.

“We’d like to welcome them back towards the end of June. I’d like them all here, but, realistically, they won’t be. The European games are in the middle of August, so we do have a bit of time to get them in but their parent clubs could put them somewhere else.

“It’s totally outwith our hands. That’s the difficulty of it.”

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