Neilson backs Strachan

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has called on the Tartan Army to unite behind under-pressure Scotland boss Gordon Strachan.

Strachan is reportedly considering his position after a poor start to the World Cup qualifiers.

Scotland suffered a 3-0 defeat to Slovakia on Tuesday, which followed a damaging 1-1 draw with Lithuania at Hampden three days earlier, to suggest hopes of ending a two-decade wait to reach a major finals were already slipping away.

Neilson has urged the Scotland supporters to keep the faith ahead of next month’s clash with Group F leaders England in London.

“We’re still in the group. We’ve still got a chance,” he said.

“We’ve got a huge game coming up at Wembley, so let’s try and get behind the team and not be too negative.

“It’s easy to be negative and harder to be positive – but that’s what we need to do.

“Ahead of the England game we need to back the team and back the manager and try to get a result. All this negativity isn’t helping anyone at all.

“I hope Gordon will still be in charge at Wembley. I think he’s done a good job and we have to be positive with the situation we’re in.

“We’ve got a lot of really good young players coming through. It will take time for them to develop.

“If you look at Slovakia’s midfield three (Milan Skriniar, Juraj Kucka, Marek Hamsik) they play for Sampdoria, AC Milan and Napoli. They’ve got 90-odd caps between them. We can’t just expect to go and turn these teams over.

“It will take time for these young players to progress to the level where we’re going to qualify consistently.

“It’s 20 years since we had most of our players playing at the top clubs in England, but I think we’re coming to the end of that. We’ve got a lot of good young guys getting a lot of game time in the SPFL and down in England.”

Hearts right-back Callum Paterson was the only home-based player in Strachan’s line-up for the Lithuania disappointment. Celtic’s Kieran Tierney then joined him in a starting XI otherwise dominated by England-based player for the Slovakia defeat.

Neilson believes it is tougher than ever for players based in the Ladbrokes Premiership to make the leap to the international game.

“There is probably a gap opening up between the Premiership and international football which is getting harder to bridge,” he said.

“But if you look at the other top nations, the majority of their players are playing out with their own country.

“The SPFL is a breeding ground for young talent. When that talent develops they can make the step up to a higher level – then they can make the step up to the national team.”

While the Tartan Army are left to lament their latest let down, the Jambos faithful are looking forward with excitement after Edinburgh City Council gave formal approval for the construction of Hearts’ new £12million main stand.

Neilson will be sad to see the old structure go, but reckons it’s replacement will help the Tynecastle crowd turn up the noise.

“The old stand is great but it’s served its time,” he said.

“It created a great atmosphere but the new one will take it to another level.

“I will miss the old stand because it has that character about it. It’s been part of my life for a long time.

“I think the new stand will increase that special atmosphere. It will mirror the three other stands which already produce such an intimidating and intense environment.

“To put another one in there will only increase that feeling.”

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