Robbie Neilson: Hearts work to strengthen squad for next season

Robbie Neilson and the Hearts players celebrate on the pitch with the Championship trophy
Robbie Neilson and the Hearts players celebrate on the pitch with the Championship trophy

Robbie Neilson has revealed he is already been working to improve his Hearts squad for next season.

and lifted the Scottish Championship trophy on Saturday, having ended Neilson's first season in the Tynecastle dugout with a league-winning margin of 21 points.

"We've been in Europe during the week looking at a couple of players," Neilson said.

"We're making contact with a couple of people so we're well on the way."

He added: "This period's so important for us. We're stepping up to a bigger level and we have to be prepared for it."

The match

Reflecting on the game, in which two late goals by Genero Zeefuik pinned Rangers back and earned a draw, Neilson was thrilled with the outcome.

He said: "It summed up our whole season, with a lot of adversity over the close season, then fighting back, sticking together and getting the equaliser in the last minute.

Hearts celebrate
Two late goals by Genero Zeefuik, second left, earned Hearts a draw

"It came from the backing of the fans and the players believing in each other, so it's a great way to finish. It felt better than a victory because of the manner we did it."

Neilson said that, while promotion was always the goal for this season, the way in which they romped to the title was "beyond our own expectations".

He added: "We now need to build over the summer and try and get a steady place in the Premiership and back to where we belong.

"I'm losing a few big players over the summer, which is disappointing and difficult, but they've made their choice and we thank them for everything they've done.

"Without these guys, we'd never be standing here today in the position we're in."

The captain

Hearts will be without Danny Wilson next season as the captain takes advantage of a clause in his contract to leave ahead of its final year.

After being presented with the Championship trophy, Wilson said: "It'll be difficult but it's a decision I've made.

"I wanted a new challenge and that's what I'm aiming for. I'm delighted I'm able to go out here as a champion and that's the most important thing.

"I'll always have the memories and it's something I'll always be grateful for."

The owner

Hearts owner Ann Budge
Owner Ann Budge: "If you know where you’re trying to go, you’ve got a fair chance of getting there."

The scenes at the stadium will have been particularly pleasing for the club's owner, Ann Budge, whose investment has greatly improved the club's financial health.

"It's amazing to experience something like this," she told BBC Scotland.

"The fans have been amazing all season but they've had a good day today and what a way to end it."

Asked about the efforts of Neilson and director of football Craig Levein to sign new players for life in the Premiership, she added: "I'm sure they'll get them. They know what the budgets are.

"They are working very, very hard to get them. We're reasonably optimistic that there are a couple that are quite close so I'm quite sure that with the team we've got, we'll get the players we need."

And she praised the achievements of her head coach, encouraging him to remain at the club.

"Robbie is so intelligent and he knows that another year with a club that trusts him, respects him, supports him will set him up well for his future career," she said.