ROBBIE Neilson had been preparing himself for an all or nothing Championship title decider on the final day of the season but instead the Hearts head coach could be celebrating a title triumph this afternoon.
A 3-0 victory over Falkirk yesterday leaves the Gorgie men with a 23-point gap over their nearest rivals and anything other than a Hibs win against Rangers at Easter Road today will hand Hearts the trophy.
It is not what Neilson had envisaged when the fixtures were released last summer. He said: “To be honest, you look at it at the start of the season and we knew we had Rangers on the first game of the season and in the last game of the season and we looked at it and thought, ‘OK, if we are going into the last game of the season against them needing a result, I would take that’. I would have taken a Championship decider that day but thankfully we don’t need to do that. We can now go into that game without it being an enormous game.”
With 25 wins and only one defeat in their 29 Championship games, Hearts are now two points away from an unassailable points tally. If Hibs do win today, the champions elect will then attempt to complete the task against Queen of the South at Tynecastle next weekend.
“I would rather that we had to go to Tynecastle and have to take something out the game because I think the atmosphere would be fantastic,” admitted Neilson, who won’t even be at Easter Road this afternoon.
“I will be at Stirling Uni from about 9am on my pro licence,” he revealed. “I will keep an eye on my phone and see how it goes but there’s nothing we can do. If it happens then great, if it doesn’t then we will gear up for next Saturday and Queen of the South.
“The incentive is there to win every week. When you play for a club of Hearts’ stature then no matter what league you are in you have to go out to win every week and that’s what we set out to do. Playing in the Championship we should be winning games and that’s what we have been doing.
“That’s what we want to do – win games – and we still have Hibs to play at Easter Road, we have Rangers to play twice and it’s important that we win these games because it keeps the momentum going and it keeps the fans enjoyment and the enthusiasm going and hopefully we can carry that through to next season.”