“That’s what Craig does,” stated the man who once played in front of the Gorgie goalie and now has the pleasure of managing him. “He is very steady with the simple things. Then he makes the exceptional look easy as well. Hopefully he continues that with us.
“We’re keen to get him tied down, he has a clause in his contract and we’re trying to move forward on that.
“I don’t see it being too much of an issue here, he is very settled. His family stays around the corner. So hopefully we’ll get it done.”
Reporting back from international duty in good form, the 38-year-old club captain is now shaping up for this Saturday’s top of the table clash against Rangers at Ibrox, and asked just how long a deal he would like to see his star man sign, Neilson was thinking long-term.
“Fifteen years! As long as Craig wants to play he’ll be here, hopefully. He turns 39 later this year and he is still fit as a fiddle. So whatever Craig wants to do, we’re happy to facilitate it.
“He trained today and he’s in good spirits. I think he had two really good performances and two really good results [with Scotland] so he is ready to go.”
A key component in Hearts bold start to the league campaign and their eight-game unbeaten cinch Premiership run, Neilson says there was good reason why he wanted him to return to the club in the first place and even greater evidence of why he now wants him to see out his playing career there.
“At Craig’s age and given his situation, with the family staying in Edinburgh and eventually looking to get into coaching as well, I think this is the perfect place for him.
“He knew he was coming in as number one, so it all fell into place really. And we were pleased to get it done.
“He is playing in a good team just now and he gives us that base. When he is called upon he makes the save and you need that and he gives the rest of the team that confidence as well.
“For me goalkeeper is a massively important position in the team, if you are going to strengthen then it’s one of the first positions you would look at, keeper, centre-half, striker. We’re pleased we have got that.”
And, heading to Ibrox, hoping to oversee another Hearts win there, Neilson says there are echoes of that 2014 team in the current squad.
“We had a good team back then, a lot of threats, similar to the team we have now.
“We’ve got a lot of young, hungry guys and a few experienced ones. They’re looking forward to the game.
“That’s a big difference to some teams I’ve been involved with in the past, going through to Glasgow. When you go to Ibrox or Parkhead, you are always the underdog but we’ll find out at three o’clock on Saturday.”