Robbie Neilson is determined to help Hearts achieve their goal of a title challenge by ensuring that they are consistently qualified for European group-stage soccer.
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After helping Tynecastle to the Championship title, a Scottish Cup Final and guaranteed European group stage football in the two-years since his return for a second spell, Neilson has signed an extension to his contract for three years.
Joe Savage, the sport director, has made public his desire to end the Celtic-Rangers title duopoly that began in 1986. Neilson believes Europe holds the key.
The 42-year-old said that their team opened their Scottish Premiership campaign at Ross County on Saturday.
“If we can do this for two, three or four years, it allows me to build. The gulf is enormous, but we want it to be so that we can continue to work towards a solution.
“I don’t think there’s a time limit, but I believe it will be a process that takes place over many seasons.
“But the key one for us, can we continually get into European football, because that is ultimately where the club make the finances to allow us to improve the squad and the club as a whole and start bridging that gap.”
Neilson was about to enter the final season of his contract, but he has vowed his future with his assistants Lee McCulloch & Gordon Forrest.
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“We have speaking about it for a couple of months now so to finally get it sorted is great, it allows us to focus on the season ahead,”He said.
“First and foremost I am really enjoying my time back at Hearts, it’s a fantastic club to be at. I am delighted to be here, the team has been doing really well, the board have been great, the Foundation (of Hearts) has been great, so it’s a great platform to build forward.
“The club approached me a few months back to renew their membership. I was thrilled to oblige.
“One of the key things in football is continuity and stability but it’s very limited in football. One of the reasons I came back here when I got asked is the continuity at the football club and with the owner at that time and now the Foundation.”
Neilson knows the financial benefits of playing eight European games prior to Christmas. However, Neilson also knows he needs to strengthen his squad.
Hearts have added five new players to their roster this summer, as well as Alex Cochrane back from a loan spell.
“If you look at Rangers and Celtic last year, the first-team squads were about 28-29 for each team and we ran with about 20,”Neilson stated. “So we have to try and get closer to that.
“While we won’t be able to reach that number, it is something we hope to do. So there are still a few spots to fill.
“It’s been a bit quiet the last week or two, but I think the next week or two it will start to kick off again.”