Former Hearts star Robbie Neilson eyes move close to Midlands home

NOTTS COUNTY is the most likely destination for Robbie Neilson, the former Hearts full-back who was released by Leicester City on Monday. His reluctance to uproot from the Midlands since settling with his family there two years ago means a return to Scotland is unlikely at best.

Neilson has already trained with Notts County and impressed as a trialist in their recent friendly victory over Mansfield. He is unfazed by the prospect of dropping from England's Championship to League One. As a 31-year-old free agent, he is able to negotiate his own destiny but does not intend venturing far from the family home.

"I want to stay down here with one of the teams in the Midlands area," he told the Evening News. "Notts County have shown quite a big interest. They are only half an hour from my house, which is great. There are a couple of other teams interested as well. There was talk of Doncaster so, overall, I'm more likely to stay down here.

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"The kids are settled at school so I don't want to uproot them. Financially, it's probably more beneficial to stay down here at this moment in time. If I got an offer from the right club in Scotland I would come back, but the offers I've had down here have been pretty good.

"I've spoken to Notts County. I've already done a bit of training with them, had a chat with the manager and played in a wee friendly game at Mansfield. They seem willing to do something with me so I will speak to them again. I'll also see what else is out there and then make up my mind.

"Notts County are a decent team. They have expressed an interest but it hasn't move any further than that. I've got my situation at Leicester sorted out now, so hopefully it's a chance for a new start."

Martin Allen, the Notts County manager, became an admirer of Neilson during the player's loan spell at Brentford late last season. He is keen to negotiate a deal for the former Scotland internationalist and believes geography may work in Notts County's favour.

"If I wasn't interested in signing him I wouldn't have him at the club," said Allen. "There is interest in him from a couple of Championship clubs but he doesn't live too far from here.

"He was absolutely fantastic for Brentford against us at the end of last season and I will have to chat with my bosses to see what they say because he is a player I would like to bring to this club."

After finding himself marginalised by Sven Goran Eriksson's swashbuckling regime at Leicester, Neilson's priority is securing regular football for himself.Overseeing his family's happiness is equally important to a player with two young children and who, refreshingly, is not purely out for financial gain.

He managed just 26 appearances for Leicester in two years and admits the club are now operating on a different platform to that which saw him arrive from Hearts on freedom of contract in 2009. Severing ties became the only way he could move his career forward, although his exit became somewhat protracted in recent weeks. Now he is pondering pastures new with a clear mind.

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"At one point, I thought I was going to stay at Leicester and get things sorted out," explained Neilson. "So any move went on the back burner and I was back in training at Leicester. But now I know I'm leaving and it's good to know other teams are interested. Hopefully, I'll get something sorted in the next couple of weeks."

His preference would be a settled long-term deal at a club within commutable distance of his Leicestershire home. However, job satisfaction will be a major issue. At his age, Neilson is not up for a seat on the substitutes' bench or in the stand. "It's easy to say you would like a long contract but you don't want to be tied on a long contract at a place you don't want to be. I'd rather be somewhere I enjoy, where I'm playing football and it's a good environment.

"What I don't want to do is start moving around England, a year here, a year there and be moving the kids about. If we move house again, it will be back to Scotland. I'm not going to move location. The family are settled here and that's why Notts County is appealing. It's only half an hour from the house, it's a good set-up, the manager is good, so we'll wait and see.

"I would like to have made more of an impression at Leicester. I fitted in quite well there at first, then they got a new manager in and the club went into a different stratosphere to be honest. They started bringing boys in from all over the place. They've just paid 5.5?million for somebody (Matt Mills from Reading] and paid him ridiculous money.

"They are a Premier League club now in all but name. Everybody expects them to get promoted this season. I have to move on, hopefully to somewhere where I can play.

"Over the summer I did quite a bit of work myself to keep my fitness up because I knew I'd need to be ready to impress. Last season I only played about 15 games so I definitely need to play more. You can never say never in football or life in general. I would like to come back to Scotland one day but there isn't a set timescale for it. We're happy down here and that's the main thing as far as I'm concerned."