Robbie Neilson: Hearts manager defended after vicious backlash to defeat
The Jambos slumped to a fourth defeat in a row as they lost 2-1 to 10-man Killie, allowing Aberdeen to close to within a point in the race for third place in the cinch Premiership. The Hearts support vented their fury at Rugby Park and there have been widespread calls on social media for the manager to be removed, while on Sunday afternoon pictures emerged of spray paint on the Hearts badge on the Foundation of Hearts Plaza outside Tynecastle reading “f*** off Neilson”.
McInnes feels the Jambos boss, who has led the club to the Championship title and third place in the Premiership plus two Scottish Cup finals since returning in 2020 for his second spell in charge, is being harshly treated. “Nothing really surprises me,” said the Killie boss when asked about the Hearts support’s reaction to their defeat against his team. “Robbie’s in charge of a good team there and they’re sitting third in the league. I think on the evidence of the last couple of seasons, he’s deserving of better than that. Pressure comes to all of us and Robbie will be well aware of that, but at the start of the season, for Hearts to be sitting where they are now, I’m sure everyone would have taken that.”
McInnes found himself in a similar predicament to Neilson towards the end of his own eight-year reign at previous club Aberdeen when sections of the Dons support were no longer satisfied by regular qualification for Europe and felt there was another level that could be reached with a change of management. “A lot of the time when you’ve been at a club for a period of time, you’re judged by the standards you set yourself rather than when you initially go in and you’re judged against the standards of the previous manager,” added McInnes. “If you do well, you get judged against your own (previous) performances, and sometimes people are always looking for something different. Robbie’s done a very good job there and I’m sure he’ll continue to do that.”