Hearts fans response to John Souttar will prelude St Johnstone match as Robbie Neilson 'understands' frustration over Rangers move

Tynecastle Park is going to be a fascinating place on Tuesday evening when tannoy announcer Scott Wilson reads out the Hearts XI moments before the team face St Johnstone in the first match after the winter break.

It marks the first game since John Souttar signed a pre-contract agreement with Rangers to join in the summer following the expiry of his current deal.

Taking a temperature check of Hearts fans, the centre-back will be viewed with a mixture of indifference, annoyance and anger. The player will know he’ll have to deal with boos and frustration directed his way.

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While there are a number of sensible and logical reasons for Souttar to choose Rangers over clubs in the English Championship, the beauty of football is that rational thought is discarded. An impassioned, even tribal, feeling takes hold from within.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JANAURY 17: Heart's manager Robbie Neilson during a Hearts training session at the Oriam training facility, on January 17, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

There are those who don’t want to see the centre-back play for the club again, others want him to face Auchinleck Talbot in the Scottish Cup and be cup-tied for any potential January switch to Rangers.

For manager Robbie Neilson, Souttar will remain part of his first-team plans. And understandably so, Hearts have a better chance of securing third and European football with the 25-year-old in the starting XI.

"No player will ever be bigger than the club,” Neilson said. “People will come and go. I can understand the disappointment. We have a disappointment here as well.

"As a fanbase and a club, we have to make sure we look at the bigger picture. That is to support the team to push forward and try to get European football.

"I think he will be strong enough mentally to get through it. I totally understand everyone's frustrations with it but it's about winning games.

"We want to drive the club forward, continue the good form we've had, the feelgood factor that has made Tynecastle a fortress, and hopefully the fans will understand that.”

Rangers boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst suggested Souttar will join in the summer with no bid forthcoming as things stand.

"There isn't a decision to be made at this moment," Neilson said. “If and when an offer comes in, then there's a decision to make.

"He will be utilised as best we can to make sure we perform as best we can and get into Europe.”

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