We want to compete with Celtic

Robbie Neilson knows Hearts cannot compete with Celtic’s spending power – but hopes the full Jambos package will land him the players he needs to topple the Hoops.

The Parkhead outfit underlined their domestic superiority with Sunday’s dominant display against Rangers in the Betfred Cup semi-finals.

No Scottish side has managed to beat Brendan Rodgers’ rampant Ladbrokes Premiership leaders so far this term and excited Celtic supporters are already speculating on whether their team can complete the league season undefeated.

Neilson’s men have, however, proved that they can run the champions close after a narrow defeat on the opening day of the campaign.

But the head coach wants Hearts to have higher ambitions than giving the Glasgow giants the odd fright.

And with the Gorgie side now able to access training facilities at the new Oriam centre at Heriot-Watt University and construction of a new main stand at Tynecastle due to begin in just over a month’s time, Neilson reckons the future looks promising.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday night’s trip to Kilmarnock, he said: “Everyone hopes to make a sustained challenge. That’s what we’re aiming for.

“We’re already looking at the January window and thinking about where we can make the squad better.

“It’s difficult challenging against Celtic. Just look at the size of their squad and the revenue they get. They get £20-odd million from the Champions League.

“They are buying guys for £3million, £4million, £5million and our job is to compete with them – but we feel we can do it.

“We showed that in the first game of the season where we should have got a draw.

“We’re not going to go out and buy a guy for £3million and pay them £40,000 a week. We have to make sure we recruit well, grow slowly and eventually overtake them.

“We have the best training facility in Scotland by a country mile now. We fly guys in to show them this fantastic facility from Edinburgh Airport, which is 10 minutes away.

We take them to the stadium which is getting redeveloped. We then take them to the city centre which is lovely. So the whole package is there. It’s just the finances which are not – but we hope over time that will come.”

Neilson believes three of his men – defender John Souttar, midfielder Arnaud Djoum and winger Jamie Walker – are good enough to match anything Celtic can offer.

But he admits he needs more than that if the capital outfit are to consider themselves serious contenders.

He said:”Our job is to find more of these guys without spending millions on them.

“We’ve managed to do that with guys like Arnaud, Jamie and John but we need a bigger group.

“We also need to develop the ones coming through our academy. We’ve got guys like Callum Paterson, Jamie, Sam Nicholson and Jack Hamilton who have done that already. We’re hoping the likes of Liam Smith and Dario Zanatta will be the next batch through.

“It takes time but we hope as they progress we can recruit well too and form a team can challenge.”

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