John Souttar: Hearts fans boost chase for Dundee United defender

John Souttar and Gary Harkins
John Souttar (left) has played in United's first team since 2013

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson says fan power has given him extra clout in the transfer market as his club considers a fresh bid for John Souttar.

Neilson would not comment on the 19-year-old, for whom Dundee United rejected Hearts' initial bid.

But he said: "We had a budget at the start of the season and we kept some of it to try to do something in January.

"But the backing of the fans, the home sell-outs, other revenue that comes in, adds to the budget as well."

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Interview - Robbie Neilson

Neilson added: "We've had fantastic backing from the fans through the Foundation of Hearts and selling out every home game, which then gives us that financial backing."

Scotland Under-21 cap Souttar mostly played as a central defender under Mixu Paatelainen's predecessor, Jackie McNamara, but more recently has also featured in the centre of midfield for Hearts' Premiership rivals.

The teenager, came through the Tannadice club's youth academy and has made more than 70 appearances for United, has entered the final six months of his contract,

But the United manager said earlier this month he was optimistic the defender would stay.

"I am not going to talk about another team's player," Neilson told BBC Scotland. "There's a lot of players getting put to us and it's that time of the year, but any business we do will be done privately."

Hearts striker Osman Sow
Swedish striker Osman Sow has scored 11 goals for Hearts this season

There has been speculation linking striker Osman Sow, whose two-year contract at Hearts ends in the summer, with a return to English football.

"I would like to keep Osman as he's a key player for us, but if a big English club comes in then the player moves on," Neilson said of the 25-year-old Swede previously with Crystal Palace.

"We are a selling team, like every team in Scotland, but the position we are in at the moment is that we don't have to sell and we don't have to accept any bid that comes in.

"It has to be a significant bid and, if that comes in, it will be something we will look at.

"We are in a position where we don't need to sell, which is great, and the only way someone will move here is if it suits us and it suits the player."

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