Hearts' Robbie Neilson explains why Arbroath's Dick Campbell should win award and manage at higher level

Robbie Neilson nods as the case is made for several manager of the year candidates, but while many top-tier gaffers are vying for the honours, his vote went to a lower-league figure he believes could be in greater demand going forward.

Robbie Neilson, left, and Dick Campbell.
Robbie Neilson, left, and Dick Campbell.

The Scottish Football Writers’ shortlist includes Scotland boss Steve Clarke, who has the national men’s team on the verge of a World Cup for the first time since 1998.

Ange Postecoglou could finish his first season at Celtic with the league and cup double, while Malky Mackay has the opportunity to help Ross County clinch a European spot.

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Rangers manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst did not make the shortlist despite guiding Rangers to the Europa League semi-finals and the Scottish Cup final, where his team face Neilson, who did. The Hearts squad are gunning for silverware, having already secured third place in their first season back in the top flight and they also have European group football to look forward to next season.

All solid contenders for the end of season award, but the Tynecastle gaffer believes there is someone even more worthy – Arbroath manager Dick Campbell.

“I voted for Dick,” said Neilson. “He has had an outstanding season. I know the league [Championship] well and it is a tough league to play in and he has managed to get a part-time team, having, firstly, built the team over the last four or five years, keeping the guys like Ricky Little and Tam O’Brien all together and creating a squad and adding bits and pieces to it, then almost got the title which would have been unbelievable. To even get to the playoffs for them is outstanding.

“He loves the game and if you speak to Dick, and I do speak to him every now and again, because we have a player there on loan. Dick is so enthusiastic about the game. He loves football and he has an idea how he wants his team to play and to have that longevity is outstanding.

“I don’t get the old-school stuff people speak about. What is football? Football at first-team level is about winning games. People talk about the style of football but before that it was something else and four years before that it was something else.”

And, having been pipped to automatic promotion, Neilson believes that Campbell could yet get the chance to manage in the Premiership, even if Arbroath stutter at the last hurdle.

“Dick has been at Partick and he has been at Dunfermline but he has found a club there, him and Pink [his assistant and brother Ian], that just suits them to a tee. But teams will look at them, potentially, because of the job he has done. He’s been outstanding this year, and not just this year, probably the last three or four years, in trying to get them promoted.”

As for Neilson’s own nomination? “It is nice but, ultimately, players win you football matches and it is my job to help them. If we recruit well again then the team will do well again. Getting nominated is the offshoot of that but it’s nice. It’s been a good season but we’re four games away from it being a great season. If we can do that, it doesn’t matter what else happens.”