Robbie Neilson: Jason Talbot had to be punished

Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach, insists action had to be taken against Jason Talbot to protect the image of the Scottish game.

Jason Talbot was booked for this challenge but accepted a retrospective ban. Picture: SNS
Jason Talbot was booked for this challenge but accepted a retrospective ban. Picture: SNS
Jason Talbot was booked for this challenge but accepted a retrospective ban. Picture: SNS

Footage of the Livingston captain’s reckless high challenge on Sam Nicholson was beamed across the world on social media within hours of last Saturday’s incident.

Nicholson was left with several puncture wounds on his face that required stitches after being caught by the defender’s studs, and the unsavoury incident has attracted 750,000 views on YouTube.

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After only being shown a yellow card by referee Brian Colvin at the time, Scottish FA Compliance Officer Tony McGlennan issued a retrospective two-match ban and Talbot will be suspended when the teams meet again this afternoon at Tynecastle.

Nicholson is available after being forced off at half-time in last week’s 3-2 win and Neilson believes McGlennan was left with no option but to mete out a ban.

He said: “I think it was the right thing, the Compliance

Officer getting involved. It was a reckless challenge and, with it getting on social media, it was put out all over the world and that reflected badly on the Scottish game.

“Life nowadays, with social media, you do something and it’s out there forever. So it was important that it was dealt with, it’s done and we move on with it.

“The boy apologised as well, he’s made a mistake, as we all do, and we’ve moved on. I’m sure Jason regrets it because he’s made an error of judgment and it could stick with him for a long time.”

Nicholson is physically fit but Neilson admits it could take time for the 20-year-old to recover from the mental scars following the challenge.

He added: “Sam is fine. He has trained all week and is fine. It’s up to Sam to get his confidence back and we’ve got to try to help him.

“When you suffer an injury like that then, the next time you go into that situation, it will be at the back of your mind. But that’s football. You get a bad tackle, you deal with it. This will make him stronger. He’s ready to play and ready to move on.”

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Hearts captain Danny Wilson insists he would not lose any sleep if Neilson’s side collect the Championship title without producing exhilarating performances in their closing matches of the campaign.

The league leaders had to grind out a result at Livingston last week and the defender concedes they have recently struggled to replicate easy-on-the-eye displays.

He said: “Sometimes we’ve found a level of consistency without really playing well. You would rather have the results rather than the performances at times.

“You would rather have both but we’ve hit a spell for maybe four or five weeks when we’ve not really been great. The manager always wants us to play well but it’s very difficult to be critical of a team that’s won 19 out of 23 games, drawn three and lost one.

“He does give us a blast when we need it and I think that’s important to prevent complacency setting in.

“If we can continue for the rest of the season without playing well but still getting the results, we’ll definitely take that.”

Livingston midfielder Scott Pittman admits he is pinching himself at the prospect of playing at Hearts today just a fortnight after being plucked from the juniors.

Pittman was used to playing in front of a handful of fans most weeks during his time at Broxburn and Bo’ness but is set to run out to around 16,000 supporters packed into Tynecastle.

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Lions player-manager Mark Burchill paid £5,000 to take Pittman, son of former Dundee and Partick Thistle defender Steve, from the East Super League champions Bo’ness last month and the former Hamilton trainee says he is living the dream following his meteoric rise into the professional ranks.

He said: “I was quite surprised when this chance came up, I didn’t expect to come straight into the Championship. It’s quite a big jump but I had been in training with Livingston for

a few weeks and I feel like I’m improving.

“I had been in the juniors for three years with Broxburn and Bo’ness. I probably played in front of about a couple of hundred each week at Bo’ness, if that, sometimes it was a big crowd.

“Saturday will be the biggest game of my career. I’m used to playing at junior grounds and to be playing at one of the best stadiums in Scotland is a dream come true for me.”