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Curious Case of Robbie Neilson


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This is My Story Podcast

https://t.co/jO7NNqIZSl?amp=1
 

I wrote this piece on our Robbie. Merge with other Robbie threads if necessary. First time I’ve ever written anything like this so any feedback would be appreciated. 
 

cheers. 

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This is My Story Podcast

Copied for anyone not wanting to click the link. 
 

Robbie Neilson splits opinion amongst the Hearts support.  Check any social media outlet or fan forum and for every pro Neilson statement there will be a negative one close behind.  Many football fans would argue that is case and point for every single football clubs support across the land.  Fair comment but the case of Robbie Neilson is absolutely curious. 

On paper Robbie isn’t just a great Hearts manager, his stats are some of the most impressive stats in Scottish football. Robbie has managed Hearts for a total of 128 games across League, cups and Europe. He boasts a very impressive 60% overall win percentage. When you break that down it shows Robbie wins consistently across the board, 62% domestic league, 50% Europe, 66% League cup, 33% Scottish cup. Impressive. You can split his season in the championship vs season in the top flight and his stats are still impressive. 

Robbie boasts a 50% – win record in the top flight and as many fans highlight, left Hearts 2nd in the League at the time of his departure. Robbie also secured the club a top 3 finish in his first season in the top flight. For context, Hibernian, the club currently sitting 3rd in the top flight, haven’t managed that since 2005. Robbie Neilson can also boast to being the first manager since Sir Alex to win a league title with either half of the old firm in it. On paper, Robbie is doing/done an amazing job, right?

Of course, he is, but stats don’t paint the full picture. Robbie was knocked out the Europa League to Birkirkara, losing at home to the Maltese outfit in probably one of Hearts most embarrassing European results. So, his 50% European win rate has to have context. Robbie Neilson lost to Alloa in the League cup knock out stages this season. The first time in Hearts history they’ve lost to part time Alloa. Robbie Neilson has never won more than 2 games in knock out football. 

A big percentage of his win rate in the cup competitions comes from winning in the group stage format of the league cup. The quarter finals of the League cup are Robbie’s best run in the cup to date, but he only had to win one match to get there, Hearts being seeded and joining in the knockout rounds. Robbie Neilson of course managed Hearts in last seasons, played during this seasons, Scottish cup final but it was Daniel Stendel that got Hearts to the semi-final. 

Robbie beat Hibs in the semi-final, losing to Celtic in the final on penalties. Robbie was also knocked out the challenge cup in the 2nd round during his first spell at the club, having won only one game again. So, his stats in cup competition aren’t as clear cut as they seem. To be fair to Robbie Neilson, Hearts under performing in the League cup/cup in general isn’t unique to Robbie. 

Then there is this seasons Championship campaign. As I type this Hearts are sitting 11 points clear of Dunfermline, who have a game in hand. Hearts have won 70% of their League games this season and with 10 games left, look likely Champions. Again, however, the stats only tell half the story. Hearts playing budget is £9 million a year, compare that to Dunfermline, Dundee, Raith Rovers, then you’d expect Hearts to be sitting clear at the top, no? 

This season Hearts have lost 3 games and drawn 2. In the last Championship campaign hearts dropped only 4 points to sides outside Rangers and Hibs, losing only twice to both after the league was won. Hearts have lost against all 3 of their main competitors this season, Dunfermline, Dundee and Raith. Something that has shocked Hearts fans. 

Robbie Neilson is also able to call upon Liam Boyce, Michael Smith, Craig Gordon, Gary McKay Steven and Steven Naismith. 5 full international players, in a league that has 2 part time teams, teams hampered by cash flow problems. A starting 11 with those 5 said internationalists drew 1 each with Morton yesterday, who are manager less. So again, the stats have to have context.

So, what is the problem at Hearts? Why do we constantly see negativity around Robbie Neilson from a growing section of Hearts fans. Can’t be many managers with a 60% winning record gazing skywards to see banners calling for their removal. For me, a big concern for most fans is the persistence on formation, tactics, game plans that don’t suit the players we have. 

Don’t get me wrong, loads of the complaints are moon howling and symptomatic of a fan base stuck in the house during COVID-19 with no avenue to vent. Robbie plays 4231 religiously and has done at every club he has managed. He favours having two sitting midfielders in the deep pivot role sacrificing two up front. He also likes to play two “10’s” which often means we lose width. Case inpoint on that is the Walker-Naismith dilemma. Walker has contributed far more than Naismith this season in the “10” but is often moved out wide to make way for the Scotland international. In the early part of the season Robbie tried to play both which had a negative effect on both players and their form dipped respectively. 

The other issue Robbie has faced with 4231 this season is none of the wingers signed in any of the windows have been good enough. Ginnelly the undoubted talent amongst those wingers but his spell at the club was curtailed due to injury and left having only played a handful of games. Frear, Roberts, Kastaneer and GMS have been way below the standard required. Another player that has suffered due to the lack of width in the 4231 set up is Liam Boyce. Hearts top scorer this season has rarely had the service he requires. 

Most of Liam Boyce’s goals have come from the penalty spot or opportune finishes from half chances. Hearts were conceding too many goals, 2 at Dunfermline, 3 at Dundee, 3 at home to Raith and Ayr. To combat that Robbie stopped Smith and Kingsley committing too far forward, that has left GMS, Kastaneer, Walker left 1 vs 2 and outnumbered resulting in Hearts going backward towards their own goal recycling the ball. This is a big issue with the fans, it is a passage of play that we have seen throughout Robbie’s tenure. Possession based football with no end product, slow and laborious. 

The game yesterday was hugely frustrating as it’s a story we have seen time and time again. 26 attempts at goal, 5 on target, 1 goal. The first goal from open play in 270 minutes of football. When Hearts don’t score early, they rarely go on to win matches comfortably and yesterday was another example of that. It has been over a year since Hearts last scored an away goal within the opening 30 minutes. In 2021, Hearts have only scored 4 goals in the first half, a huge frustration for the team and fans alike.

So, what is the solution? For me, I’d like to see us play 3 at the back, especially at home. Popescu and Halkett with Haring sitting just a little in front of them as cover if we need it. I’d like to see Smith and Kingsley play as wing backs. Both players have contributed more than all the wingers currently at the club. In the middle of the park, I’d like to see Halliday/Irving, McEneff and Walker. Walker and McEneff with license to get forward as much as they can. Boyce and Naismith up front with Gnando an option from the bench or if we need to be more direct. 

I think 352 suits the players we have and still allows Robbie to get his “go to” men on the field. We played 352 against Celtic in the final and more than match them. 352 also gives us numbers and overloads in all the areas of the park we require, especially when playing against sides in this league that favour 451. We also need to see a better tempo in possession. Quicker passing, quicker pressing and quicker to get the ball out wide. Something I hope Robbie is looking at. Sticking with 4231 is just going to enrage the fans more as it seems so easy to play against, as Morton showed yesterday and other sides in the league have shown over the season.

So why is it a curious case? Robbie Nielson is a fantastic coach. Robbie Neilson’s stats are incredible, not only for Hearts but for any Scottish manager. Robbie Neilson will have won 3 League titles come the end of this season, finished 3rd and qualified for Europe. Yet, it could’ve/could be so much more for him. His stubbornness to persist with a shape and game plan frustrates the fans, even though it delivers results. I myself both love and loathe Robbie. He is the most successful manager Hearts have had since Jim Jefferies, stats wise, and is the only Hearts manager for a decade to finish 3rd in the top flight. Very curious.

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Psychedelicropcircle

Robbie may just be taking heat for every manager who’s been here since he left last time. 
 

his style of play is boring AF mind you😤
 

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kingantti1874

Stopped reading when we say Kastaneer is way below the standard required. 😂 after c90 total minutes 45 of which he was very decent. 
 

imagine this logic was applied to someone like Hartley or Zaliukas 😆 

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Under the floodlight
31 minutes ago, This is My Story Podcast said:

Copied for anyone not wanting to click the link. 
 

Robbie Neilson splits opinion amongst the Hearts support.  Check any social media outlet or fan forum and for every pro Neilson statement there will be a negative one close behind.  Many football fans would argue that is case and point for every single football clubs support across the land.  Fair comment but the case of Robbie Neilson is absolutely curious. 

On paper Robbie isn’t just a great Hearts manager, his stats are some of the most impressive stats in Scottish football. Robbie has managed Hearts for a total of 128 games across League, cups and Europe. He boasts a very impressive 60% overall win percentage. When you break that down it shows Robbie wins consistently across the board, 62% domestic league, 50% Europe, 66% League cup, 33% Scottish cup. Impressive. You can split his season in the championship vs season in the top flight and his stats are still impressive. 

Robbie boasts a 50% – win record in the top flight and as many fans highlight, left Hearts 2nd in the League at the time of his departure. Robbie also secured the club a top 3 finish in his first season in the top flight. For context, Hibernian, the club currently sitting 3rd in the top flight, haven’t managed that since 2005. Robbie Neilson can also boast to being the first manager since Sir Alex to win a league title with either half of the old firm in it. On paper, Robbie is doing/done an amazing job, right?

Of course, he is, but stats don’t paint the full picture. Robbie was knocked out the Europa League to Birkirkara, losing at home to the Maltese outfit in probably one of Hearts most embarrassing European results. So, his 50% European win rate has to have context. Robbie Neilson lost to Alloa in the League cup knock out stages this season. The first time in Hearts history they’ve lost to part time Alloa. Robbie Neilson has never won more than 2 games in knock out football. 

A big percentage of his win rate in the cup competitions comes from winning in the group stage format of the league cup. The quarter finals of the League cup are Robbie’s best run in the cup to date, but he only had to win one match to get there, Hearts being seeded and joining in the knockout rounds. Robbie Neilson of course managed Hearts in last seasons, played during this seasons, Scottish cup final but it was Daniel Stendel that got Hearts to the semi-final. 

Robbie beat Hibs in the semi-final, losing to Celtic in the final on penalties. Robbie was also knocked out the challenge cup in the 2nd round during his first spell at the club, having won only one game again. So, his stats in cup competition aren’t as clear cut as they seem. To be fair to Robbie Neilson, Hearts under performing in the League cup/cup in general isn’t unique to Robbie. 

Then there is this seasons Championship campaign. As I type this Hearts are sitting 11 points clear of Dunfermline, who have a game in hand. Hearts have won 70% of their League games this season and with 10 games left, look likely Champions. Again, however, the stats only tell half the story. Hearts playing budget is £9 million a year, compare that to Dunfermline, Dundee, Raith Rovers, then you’d expect Hearts to be sitting clear at the top, no? 

This season Hearts have lost 3 games and drawn 2. In the last Championship campaign hearts dropped only 4 points to sides outside Rangers and Hibs, losing only twice to both after the league was won. Hearts have lost against all 3 of their main competitors this season, Dunfermline, Dundee and Raith. Something that has shocked Hearts fans. 

Robbie Neilson is also able to call upon Liam Boyce, Michael Smith, Craig Gordon, Gary McKay Steven and Steven Naismith. 5 full international players, in a league that has 2 part time teams, teams hampered by cash flow problems. A starting 11 with those 5 said internationalists drew 1 each with Morton yesterday, who are manager less. So again, the stats have to have context.

So, what is the problem at Hearts? Why do we constantly see negativity around Robbie Neilson from a growing section of Hearts fans. Can’t be many managers with a 60% winning record gazing skywards to see banners calling for their removal. For me, a big concern for most fans is the persistence on formation, tactics, game plans that don’t suit the players we have. 

Don’t get me wrong, loads of the complaints are moon howling and symptomatic of a fan base stuck in the house during COVID-19 with no avenue to vent. Robbie plays 4231 religiously and has done at every club he has managed. He favours having two sitting midfielders in the deep pivot role sacrificing two up front. He also likes to play two “10’s” which often means we lose width. Case inpoint on that is the Walker-Naismith dilemma. Walker has contributed far more than Naismith this season in the “10” but is often moved out wide to make way for the Scotland international. In the early part of the season Robbie tried to play both which had a negative effect on both players and their form dipped respectively. 

The other issue Robbie has faced with 4231 this season is none of the wingers signed in any of the windows have been good enough. Ginnelly the undoubted talent amongst those wingers but his spell at the club was curtailed due to injury and left having only played a handful of games. Frear, Roberts, Kastaneer and GMS have been way below the standard required. Another player that has suffered due to the lack of width in the 4231 set up is Liam Boyce. Hearts top scorer this season has rarely had the service he requires. 

Most of Liam Boyce’s goals have come from the penalty spot or opportune finishes from half chances. Hearts were conceding too many goals, 2 at Dunfermline, 3 at Dundee, 3 at home to Raith and Ayr. To combat that Robbie stopped Smith and Kingsley committing too far forward, that has left GMS, Kastaneer, Walker left 1 vs 2 and outnumbered resulting in Hearts going backward towards their own goal recycling the ball. This is a big issue with the fans, it is a passage of play that we have seen throughout Robbie’s tenure. Possession based football with no end product, slow and laborious. 

The game yesterday was hugely frustrating as it’s a story we have seen time and time again. 26 attempts at goal, 5 on target, 1 goal. The first goal from open play in 270 minutes of football. When Hearts don’t score early, they rarely go on to win matches comfortably and yesterday was another example of that. It has been over a year since Hearts last scored an away goal within the opening 30 minutes. In 2021, Hearts have only scored 4 goals in the first half, a huge frustration for the team and fans alike.

So, what is the solution? For me, I’d like to see us play 3 at the back, especially at home. Popescu and Halkett with Haring sitting just a little in front of them as cover if we need it. I’d like to see Smith and Kingsley play as wing backs. Both players have contributed more than all the wingers currently at the club. In the middle of the park, I’d like to see Halliday/Irving, McEneff and Walker. Walker and McEneff with license to get forward as much as they can. Boyce and Naismith up front with Gnando an option from the bench or if we need to be more direct. 

I think 352 suits the players we have and still allows Robbie to get his “go to” men on the field. We played 352 against Celtic in the final and more than match them. 352 also gives us numbers and overloads in all the areas of the park we require, especially when playing against sides in this league that favour 451. We also need to see a better tempo in possession. Quicker passing, quicker pressing and quicker to get the ball out wide. Something I hope Robbie is looking at. Sticking with 4231 is just going to enrage the fans more as it seems so easy to play against, as Morton showed yesterday and other sides in the league have shown over the season.

So why is it a curious case? Robbie Nielson is a fantastic coach. Robbie Neilson’s stats are incredible, not only for Hearts but for any Scottish manager. Robbie Neilson will have won 3 League titles come the end of this season, finished 3rd and qualified for Europe. Yet, it could’ve/could be so much more for him. His stubbornness to persist with a shape and game plan frustrates the fans, even though it delivers results. I myself both love and loathe Robbie. He is the most successful manager Hearts have had since Jim Jefferies, stats wise, and is the only Hearts manager for a decade to finish 3rd in the top flight. Very curious.

I thought this thread was about him getting younger, he could play for us again in a few years.

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Robbo-Jambo
2 minutes ago, Under the floodlight said:

I thought this thread was about him getting younger, he could play for us again in a few years.

Imagine the number of goals we would get from his long throw ins. 😉

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Under the floodlight
17 minutes ago, Robbo-Jambo said:

Imagine the number of goals we would get from his long throw ins. 😉

Yeah he was 20+ a season from the by line.

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Geoff Kilpatrick

Grouping Neilson's stats together is futile. People are judging him on what they are witnessing this season which, at best, is grim but effective. I don't trust him to build a better team next season and want someone else to do it instead.

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Kidd’s Boots

An interesting piece, that many here have agreed/debated/opinionised over this season and more or less came to the same conclusion, depending on the result!

 

The nail on the head for me is the stubborn adherence to 4231 this season. His stats support this strategy, and are likely to get the job done regarding promotion, however, his refusal to play square pegs in square holes in a system that would produce a better product with the same results does his ratings no favours and splits the support imo.

 

On the record, he has stated that 433 is the best system for this group of players, and yet doesn't,hasn't  and won't play it. Losing Ginnelly might a  factor in this as having 1 speed merchant with the ability to get a cross in the area has seen us play our most attractive football this year. ( would be an interesting stat to show how our goals from open play with Ginnelly in the team bares out against non appearances this year).  352 and 443 are easily interchangeable and produce the options for quicker ball movement and pressing options, but like everything in life, you must commit to it. I can't see Robbie doing it in this league, it's not in his DNA. 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, This is My Story Podcast said:

https://t.co/jO7NNqIZSl?amp=1
 

I wrote this piece on our Robbie. Merge with other Robbie threads if necessary. First time I’ve ever written anything like this so any feedback would be appreciated. 
 

cheers. 

 

All credit on the commitment in compiling all the stats but it's scant comfort for anyone watching a turgid struggle against Alloa or Morton on a wet windy midweek evening.

And the thing is it will be even more of a struggle next season if things don't pick up significantly.

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Lone Striker
1 hour ago, This is My Story Podcast said:

https://t.co/jO7NNqIZSl?amp=1
 

I wrote this piece on our Robbie. Merge with other Robbie threads if necessary. First time I’ve ever written anything like this so any feedback would be appreciated. 
 

cheers. 

Good bit of writing.  Interesting to see all these stats you've researched - it justifies the opinion of those fans who haven't (yet) turned against him.   I agree with your conclusion that a more adventurous style with 2 strikers  (3 5 2) would probably please everyone - assuming we win this league with several games left to play, I'd like to see him experiment with something like that (maybe even 3-4-3).   Good effort, sir !!  👍

 

 

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Restonbabe

He also isn't an inspiring role model. I wouldn't stand in his corner after giving a speech. 

There is somethinf still fundamentally wrong at heart of midlothian football club and it comes from the very top. 

 

Recruitment has been nothing short of abhorrent. John Murray has to be blamed for that. 

With Joe Savage now heading up recruitment, I hope and pray that the player turnover ceases and we build a team over a peorid to compete at the top end of the league. 

 

The question is, can you honestly say Robbie is that man? 

Because I can't. 

Edited by Restonbabe
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Tom Hardy’s Dug
24 minutes ago, Lone Striker said:

Good bit of writing.  Interesting to see all these stats you've researched - it justifies the opinion of those fans who haven't (yet) turned against him.   I agree with your conclusion that a more adventurous style with 2 strikers  (3 5 2) would probably please everyone - assuming we win this league with several games left to play, I'd like to see him experiment with something like that (maybe even 3-4-3).   Good effort, sir !!  👍

 

 


3-4-3 was apparently this guy’s preferred formation when he first managed us.

 

Yet he has never recruited for this formation in any of his 4 close seasons.

 

I think the guy is a typical Scottish dour caution first “run the channels” manager. With our resources this will likely mean we are always in or around the fight for Europe. It’s why Stendel was the chance for a more exciting future - given more time (ironically the only manager Ann has had that hasn’t outlived his usefulness and been more

than fully supported)

 

But I also think he is a bit of a fraud. He never does what he says.

 

What he says:

 

- he wants us to play attack minded football (we are increasingly cautious)

- youth is a big part of his thinking (youth players have been dumped)

- 3-4-3 is his preferred formation (he doesn’t recruit for it)

- 4-3-3 is our current squad’s best formation (he doesn’t play it)

 

But yeah, despite this, he’s done nothing worthy of getting sacked for - far from it.

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Not a bad piece. 

 

Overloads and being a bit more trusting in his team as well as himself would probably earn more plaudits rather than insurance policies against shit 

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1 hour ago, kingantti1874 said:

Stopped reading when we say Kastaneer is way below the standard required. 😂 after c90 total minutes 45 of which he was very decent. 
 

imagine this logic was applied to someone like Hartley or Zaliukas 😆 

Or Pele.  He might have had a shocker early on.  Probably did.  He turned out not too bad.

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This is My Story Podcast
1 hour ago, kingantti1874 said:

Stopped reading when we say Kastaneer is way below the standard required. 😂 after c90 total minutes 45 of which he was very decent. 
 

imagine this logic was applied to someone like Hartley or Zaliukas 😆 

Aye I annoyed myself writing that as well. It was post Morton tho 😂

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We need someone at RB or RWB that can actually cross a ball and a left sided Centerhalf before we can play 3 at the back imo. 

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Diadora Van Basten

I like 4-2-3-1 and think it suits Scottish teams.

 

The problem is our wide players are awful I also don’t know why Halliday is a first choice as he offers little. Naismith and Walker both seem to do better of the bench.

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NANOJAMBO

Not a bad  piece . A couple of observations :

 

Cup stats are meaningless, especially the league cup. More than once Hearts have managed to get to a Scottish cup final by avoiding decent opposition. 

 

His "3 league titles" will be achieved in a pub league where , in 2  cases, he is/was managing a club with massive financial advantages.

 

He quit a team that he had just led to promotion to join a team he had quit previously. 

 

Unfortunately for Neilson, he's back at Hearts after some of the most dismal football in recent memory (not all of it down to him) and shocking mismanagement on & off the pitch which has made the club chronic under achievers. He picked  a bad time to go back. 

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haveyouheard1874
1 hour ago, Tom Hardy’s Dug said:


3-4-3 was apparently this guy’s preferred formation when he first managed us.

 

Yet he has never recruited for this formation in any of his 4 close seasons.

 

I think the guy is a typical Scottish dour caution first “run the channels” manager. With our resources this will likely mean we are always in or around the fight for Europe. It’s why Stendel was the chance for a more exciting future - given more time (ironically the only manager Ann has had that hasn’t outlived his usefulness and been more

than fully supported)

 

But I also think he is a bit of a fraud. He never does what he says.

 

What he says:

 

- he wants us to play attack minded football (we are increasingly cautious)

- youth is a big part of his thinking (youth players have been dumped)

- 3-4-3 is his preferred formation (he doesn’t recruit for it)

- 4-3-3 is our current squad’s best formation (he doesn’t play it)

 

But yeah, despite this, he’s done nothing worthy of getting sacked for - far from it.

Pretty  much many fans take, including mine .. The thing is he will take us up and for me if he doesnt hit the ground running  when we are back in the SPL then chase him, but RN wont be going anywhere now. so lets grin and bare it for and see what pans out on Friday 

Edited by haveyouheard1874
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Silverwolf

Great article. Really incisive, balanced and backed by statistical analysis. It is difficult to disagree with much of what you say however I have not written off Kastineer or GMS yet. The former had a powerful first half and is much more direct than Robert’s or Freer ever were. GMS has shown some good touches but needs game time to get back to demonstrating the flare he is known for. He also needs others generate the space for his style of play.

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NotTheHoople
2 hours ago, This is My Story Podcast said:

Copied for anyone not wanting to click the link. 
 

Robbie Neilson splits opinion amongst the Hearts support.  Check any social media outlet or fan forum and for every pro Neilson statement there will be a negative one close behind.  Many football fans would argue that is case and point for every single football clubs support across the land.  Fair comment but the case of Robbie Neilson is absolutely curious. 

On paper Robbie isn’t just a great Hearts manager, his stats are some of the most impressive stats in Scottish football. Robbie has managed Hearts for a total of 128 games across League, cups and Europe. He boasts a very impressive 60% overall win percentage. When you break that down it shows Robbie wins consistently across the board, 62% domestic league, 50% Europe, 66% League cup, 33% Scottish cup. Impressive. You can split his season in the championship vs season in the top flight and his stats are still impressive. 

Robbie boasts a 50% – win record in the top flight and as many fans highlight, left Hearts 2nd in the League at the time of his departure. Robbie also secured the club a top 3 finish in his first season in the top flight. For context, Hibernian, the club currently sitting 3rd in the top flight, haven’t managed that since 2005. Robbie Neilson can also boast to being the first manager since Sir Alex to win a league title with either half of the old firm in it. On paper, Robbie is doing/done an amazing job, right?

Of course, he is, but stats don’t paint the full picture. Robbie was knocked out the Europa League to Birkirkara, losing at home to the Maltese outfit in probably one of Hearts most embarrassing European results. So, his 50% European win rate has to have context. Robbie Neilson lost to Alloa in the League cup knock out stages this season. The first time in Hearts history they’ve lost to part time Alloa. Robbie Neilson has never won more than 2 games in knock out football. 

A big percentage of his win rate in the cup competitions comes from winning in the group stage format of the league cup. The quarter finals of the League cup are Robbie’s best run in the cup to date, but he only had to win one match to get there, Hearts being seeded and joining in the knockout rounds. Robbie Neilson of course managed Hearts in last seasons, played during this seasons, Scottish cup final but it was Daniel Stendel that got Hearts to the semi-final. 

Robbie beat Hibs in the semi-final, losing to Celtic in the final on penalties. Robbie was also knocked out the challenge cup in the 2nd round during his first spell at the club, having won only one game again. So, his stats in cup competition aren’t as clear cut as they seem. To be fair to Robbie Neilson, Hearts under performing in the League cup/cup in general isn’t unique to Robbie. 

Then there is this seasons Championship campaign. As I type this Hearts are sitting 11 points clear of Dunfermline, who have a game in hand. Hearts have won 70% of their League games this season and with 10 games left, look likely Champions. Again, however, the stats only tell half the story. Hearts playing budget is £9 million a year, compare that to Dunfermline, Dundee, Raith Rovers, then you’d expect Hearts to be sitting clear at the top, no? 

This season Hearts have lost 3 games and drawn 2. In the last Championship campaign hearts dropped only 4 points to sides outside Rangers and Hibs, losing only twice to both after the league was won. Hearts have lost against all 3 of their main competitors this season, Dunfermline, Dundee and Raith. Something that has shocked Hearts fans. 

Robbie Neilson is also able to call upon Liam Boyce, Michael Smith, Craig Gordon, Gary McKay Steven and Steven Naismith. 5 full international players, in a league that has 2 part time teams, teams hampered by cash flow problems. A starting 11 with those 5 said internationalists drew 1 each with Morton yesterday, who are manager less. So again, the stats have to have context.

So, what is the problem at Hearts? Why do we constantly see negativity around Robbie Neilson from a growing section of Hearts fans. Can’t be many managers with a 60% winning record gazing skywards to see banners calling for their removal. For me, a big concern for most fans is the persistence on formation, tactics, game plans that don’t suit the players we have. 

Don’t get me wrong, loads of the complaints are moon howling and symptomatic of a fan base stuck in the house during COVID-19 with no avenue to vent. Robbie plays 4231 religiously and has done at every club he has managed. He favours having two sitting midfielders in the deep pivot role sacrificing two up front. He also likes to play two “10’s” which often means we lose width. Case inpoint on that is the Walker-Naismith dilemma. Walker has contributed far more than Naismith this season in the “10” but is often moved out wide to make way for the Scotland international. In the early part of the season Robbie tried to play both which had a negative effect on both players and their form dipped respectively. 

The other issue Robbie has faced with 4231 this season is none of the wingers signed in any of the windows have been good enough. Ginnelly the undoubted talent amongst those wingers but his spell at the club was curtailed due to injury and left having only played a handful of games. Frear, Roberts, Kastaneer and GMS have been way below the standard required. Another player that has suffered due to the lack of width in the 4231 set up is Liam Boyce. Hearts top scorer this season has rarely had the service he requires. 

Most of Liam Boyce’s goals have come from the penalty spot or opportune finishes from half chances. Hearts were conceding too many goals, 2 at Dunfermline, 3 at Dundee, 3 at home to Raith and Ayr. To combat that Robbie stopped Smith and Kingsley committing too far forward, that has left GMS, Kastaneer, Walker left 1 vs 2 and outnumbered resulting in Hearts going backward towards their own goal recycling the ball. This is a big issue with the fans, it is a passage of play that we have seen throughout Robbie’s tenure. Possession based football with no end product, slow and laborious. 

The game yesterday was hugely frustrating as it’s a story we have seen time and time again. 26 attempts at goal, 5 on target, 1 goal. The first goal from open play in 270 minutes of football. When Hearts don’t score early, they rarely go on to win matches comfortably and yesterday was another example of that. It has been over a year since Hearts last scored an away goal within the opening 30 minutes. In 2021, Hearts have only scored 4 goals in the first half, a huge frustration for the team and fans alike.

So, what is the solution? For me, I’d like to see us play 3 at the back, especially at home. Popescu and Halkett with Haring sitting just a little in front of them as cover if we need it. I’d like to see Smith and Kingsley play as wing backs. Both players have contributed more than all the wingers currently at the club. In the middle of the park, I’d like to see Halliday/Irving, McEneff and Walker. Walker and McEneff with license to get forward as much as they can. Boyce and Naismith up front with Gnando an option from the bench or if we need to be more direct. 

I think 352 suits the players we have and still allows Robbie to get his “go to” men on the field. We played 352 against Celtic in the final and more than match them. 352 also gives us numbers and overloads in all the areas of the park we require, especially when playing against sides in this league that favour 451. We also need to see a better tempo in possession. Quicker passing, quicker pressing and quicker to get the ball out wide. Something I hope Robbie is looking at. Sticking with 4231 is just going to enrage the fans more as it seems so easy to play against, as Morton showed yesterday and other sides in the league have shown over the season.

So why is it a curious case? Robbie Nielson is a fantastic coach. Robbie Neilson’s stats are incredible, not only for Hearts but for any Scottish manager. Robbie Neilson will have won 3 League titles come the end of this season, finished 3rd and qualified for Europe. Yet, it could’ve/could be so much more for him. His stubbornness to persist with a shape and game plan frustrates the fans, even though it delivers results. I myself both love and loathe Robbie. He is the most successful manager Hearts have had since Jim Jefferies, stats wise, and is the only Hearts manager for a decade to finish 3rd in the top flight. Very curious.

Well written piece and, although I don't agree with it all, I like the idea of basing the piece around the dichotomy of the theory surrounding the stats and the more practical sense of what we see. 👏

Personally I would have included some opinion on the thought that Neilson seems more interested in initially preventing the opposition playing instead of imposing our game on them (which I think accounts for a lot of our slow starts in matches).

However, an interesting read, well researched and offering the reader the option of making up their own minds. Well done!

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been here before

A Neilson thread thats a little bit different...

 

 

👍

 

However-

 

10 page Robbie Poll thread

124 page Neilson Out thread

8 page If Not Neilson thread

 

142 (and counting) pages of pure Robbie Neilson. Not to mention every single match thread, Wighton thread on and on and on...

 

This'll no doubt end up the same dicks spouting the same shite.

 

 

Edited by been here before
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David McCaig

Can i ask where the nonsense about a playing budget of £9m is coming from?

 

£9m is equivalent to a squad of 40 players earning an average of £4236 per week each!!!

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This is My Story Podcast
35 minutes ago, David McCaig said:

Can i ask where the nonsense about a playing budget of £9m is coming from?

 

£9m is equivalent to a squad of 40 players earning an average of £4236 per week each!!!

It won’t let me upload the photos but the accounts published in June show the staff costs sitting at 8.7 million for 2020. Now they may have dropped a little for this year but I would be shocked if it was a drastic fall. 

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This is My Story Podcast
1 hour ago, NotTheHoople said:

Well written piece and, although I don't agree with it all, I like the idea of basing the piece around the dichotomy of the theory surrounding the stats and the more practical sense of what we see. 👏

Personally I would have included some opinion on the thought that Neilson seems more interested in initially preventing the opposition playing instead of imposing our game on them (which I think accounts for a lot of our slow starts in matches).

However, an interesting read, well researched and offering the reader the option of making up their own minds. Well done!

Yeah I tried to stay in the middle as much as I could. There is enough hysteria etx just now around the manager that I wanted to stay as balanced as possible. His stats are superb and yeah he’s under performed in the cup etx but he doesn’t know how to get the job done whilst at Hearts. It’s not pretty and it’s majorly frustrating to watch but he’ll win enough matches to get us back in the top flight. 

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1 hour ago, Silverwolf said:

Great article. Really incisive, balanced and backed by statistical analysis. It is difficult to disagree with much of what you say however I have not written off Kastineer or GMS yet. The former had a powerful first half and is much more direct than Robert’s or Freer ever were. GMS has shown some good touches but needs game time to get back to demonstrating the flare he is known for. He also needs others generate the space for his style of play.

Yeah I haven’t written them off either but in my defence I wrote that post Morton haha no almost pun intended. 

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David McCaig
2 minutes ago, This is My Story Podcast said:

It won’t let me upload the photos but the accounts published in June show the staff costs sitting at 8.7 million for 2020. Now they may have dropped a little for this year but I would be shocked if it was a drastic fall. 

Surely staff costs include all office, catering and stewarding costs.

 

We have brought hospitality back in house so costs will clearly be far higher. 

 

£8.7m is not even close to our actual wage budget for playing staff.

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This is My Story Podcast
5 minutes ago, David McCaig said:

Surely staff costs include all office, catering and stewarding costs.

 

We have brought hospitality back in house so costs will clearly be far higher. 

 

£8.7m is not even close to our actual wage budget for playing staff.

Not the most reliable but the EEN also run the story of our accounts and state that the playing budget as 8.7million. It’s not letting me upload the pictures sorry. 

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Silverwolf
5 minutes ago, This is My Story Podcast said:

Yeah I haven’t written them off either but in my defence I wrote that post Morton haha no almost pun intended. 

I never really played competitive football so cannot comment from personal experience, however I do remember when Scotland played Brazil at home in the 80s. We got trounced. We played Davie Cooper and Pat Nevin on opposing wings. The World Cup winning, Brazilian manager stated after the game that it was naive to attempt such a formation as only really good sides could afford the luxury of two out and out wingers as it left the centre midfield short staffed. Is this an issue with our current tactics I ask myself?

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1 hour ago, David McCaig said:

Can i ask where the nonsense about a playing budget of £9m is coming from?

 

£9m is equivalent to a squad of 40 players earning an average of £4236 per week each!!!

Yeah that's not right. Hearts total wage bill is £8.776 million from recent accounts. I believe the First Team wage bill to be around £4million. 

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Geoff Kilpatrick
27 minutes ago, Cruyff said:

Yeah that's not right. Hearts total wage bill is £8.776 million from recent accounts. I believe the First Team wage bill to be around £4million. 

The latter figure is an estimate but is much more accurate than the crass assumption that 100% of wages go to players.

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On players we signed. Who are we expecting to sign in the championship? It's hard enough to sign really good players when we're in the top league. 

Anyway, next season Robbie will do the business, no problem. 

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Geoff Kilpatrick
1 hour ago, ri Alban said:

On players we signed. Who are we expecting to sign in the championship? It's hard enough to sign really good players when we're in the top league. 

Anyway, next season Robbie will do the business, no problem. 

We're in a pandemic with clubs basically struggling to stay afloat. Our resources outweigh all but 3 Scottish clubs even in a lower tier so being able to earn a living as a player is priority 1.

 

Meantime, the spine of our team needs major surgery for next season, particularly in central defence.

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cosanostra
51 minutes ago, Geoff Kilpatrick said:

We're in a pandemic with clubs basically struggling to stay afloat. Our resources outweigh all but 3 Scottish clubs even in a lower tier so being able to earn a living as a player is priority 1.

 

Meantime, the spine of our team needs major surgery for next season, particularly in central defence.

 

It's so annoying that we need a massive overhaul during every single transfer window.

It shouldn't be like this and it's obviously unsustainable.

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A_A wehatethehibs

 

 

1 hour ago, Geoff Kilpatrick said:

We're in a pandemic with clubs basically struggling to stay afloat. Our resources outweigh all but 3 Scottish clubs even in a lower tier so being able to earn a living as a player is priority 1.

 

Meantime, the spine of our team needs major surgery for next season, particularly in central defence.

 

 

Yes but we opted to conserve those resources this season and spend the minimum to get us up. The surgery was already needed when Neilson joined but he opted to just gaffer tape it together spending the minimum. And it’s worked - 4 or 5 more wins and we’re promoted. The previous squad which put Hearts in the demotion position, has been 50% dismantled, 50% patched together with players who’ve come in have been on short term deals. More contracts are up end of the season. Lee and Wighton binned early but chipped in. Berra and Zlamal and others to follow. So we’ve not been great this season but all the evidence shows this is basically just a short term promotion team, that has got a Dundee United sized cushion at the top.

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A_A wehatethehibs
1 hour ago, cosanostra said:

 

It's so annoying that we need a massive overhaul during every single transfer window.

It shouldn't be like this and it's obviously unsustainable.


In the context of Hearts going down via the levein-stendel death spiral, everyone drew a line there, and accepted that this particular overhaul would take 3 transfer Windows. We were hamstrung by the fact that we’re a division below.
 

Window 1 was summer 2020. Cut costs and ship out as much deadwood as possible with contracts stopping us from binning everyone.

 

Window 2 a few signings made on 1-2 year deals for next season, with the knowledge that it looks like we’re going up. 
 

Window 3 is this coming summer, more contracts are up. And hopefully 1 or 2 more that still have contracts can be moved on eg Halkett. As long as we’re in the Premiership that’s what matters, and it’ll be a case of thank you Robbie Neilson thank **** for you, thanks for getting us out of that shite stain league on one attempt. Now we need to forget this division for at least another 40-50 years preferably never. Really a disgrace that we were ever there. Was not Robbie Neilson who put Hearts there but on both occasions it’ll be him dragging Hearts out of it, so... thanks. 

 

But following that, judgement day. That’s when we see the actual team. Neilsons contract is up at the end of next season so, he will be judged on that team as to whether Budge and Savage opt to either extend him or make a change. He has to deliver something the supporters can rally behind. We have to believe Savage will have his ear on the ground and will know the discontent of the fans at being where we are vs where we want to be. 


 

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Smith's right boot

The op should be "the curious case of the 17.5%"

 

 

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A_A wehatethehibs
13 hours ago, This is My Story Podcast said:

https://t.co/jO7NNqIZSl?amp=1
 

I wrote this piece on our Robbie. Merge with other Robbie threads if necessary. First time I’ve ever written anything like this so any feedback would be appreciated. 
 

cheers. 


Realised I’ve responded to others without acknowledging a perceptive and balanced piece of work. Maybe something else to add as to why he possibly doesn’t click with fans - his personality in the interviews. He is naturally a very level headed, collected guy. But at times that can be a bad thing for fans. There’s been games this season again, where he’s come out saying “we dominated” or “the ref was poor” when Hearts have put in a pretty poor display. What can then come across is, that he is Ok with our performances. Whereas Ryan Stevenson put the absolute boot in after QoS away. Jim Jeffries would be spitting feathers. Even the younger Levein would go mental sometimes, which, sometimes the fans need to see that type of thing, a reflection of the strength of their own feeling. Not saying to slate the players every week but at times he seems too calm after a shocking performance and you can tell it irritates folk. Wouldn’t think he’s like that in the dressing room.

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Big Moysey

Enjoyed this piece on RN. It is undoubtedly strange that despite result stats showing he is doing reasonably well, that probably Hearts fans are about 50/50 over him being right for HMFC. 

I have moved to the opinion in recent weeks that he is not the man to take Hearts forward. He'll do an OK job but personally I don't want Hearts to be just OK - I want them to be the best we can be and I think Robbie has disappointed me this season in his interviews and seeming 'acceptance' of poor performance. 

Some examples - right from the start of the season publicly saying 'we're not going to win every game' and repeating it many times since. Everyone knows that, doesn't need to be repeated by him. Evidence of saying one thing but believing the opposite (caught on camera 'f****** h*** when Wighton scored 3rd v Raith). Other examples with Lee, Walker, Irving and Wighton of saying one thing but actions/actual are different. His stubbornness to keep to a formation in a league that needs variation of styles and tempo. 

He has strengths, undoubtedly, however, I just can't see us moving up to 3rd team in Scotland with RN and Lee McCulloch in charge. 

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been here before
45 minutes ago, Smith's right boot said:

The op should be "the curious case of the 17.5%"

 

 

 

Half a league, half a league

Half a league more

Into every single thread

Slavered the unanimous 17.5%

 

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Smith's right boot
3 hours ago, cosanostra said:

 

It's so annoying that we need a massive overhaul during every single transfer window.

It shouldn't be like this and it's obviously unsustainable.

 

After relegation and a covid transfer window I would expect some big changes Tbh. 

 

I think you're correct in general but major overhauls are a sign of a team trying to change/ improve and unfortunately since we last finished up 3rd we have been sliding backwards and had 3 managers. Big Change will come  after each manager and poor season. 

 

Edited by Smith's right boot
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cosanostra
1 hour ago, A_A wehatethehibs said:


In the context of Hearts going down via the levein-stendel death spiral, everyone drew a line there, and accepted that this particular overhaul would take 3 transfer Windows. We were hamstrung by the fact that we’re a division below.
 

Window 1 was summer 2020. Cut costs and ship out as much deadwood as possible with contracts stopping us from binning everyone.

 

Window 2 a few signings made on 1-2 year deals for next season, with the knowledge that it looks like we’re going up. 
 

Window 3 is this coming summer, more contracts are up. And hopefully 1 or 2 more that still have contracts can be moved on eg Halkett. As long as we’re in the Premiership that’s what matters, and it’ll be a case of thank you Robbie Neilson thank **** for you, thanks for getting us out of that shite stain league on one attempt. Now we need to forget this division for at least another 40-50 years preferably never. Really a disgrace that we were ever there. Was not Robbie Neilson who put Hearts there but on both occasions it’ll be him dragging Hearts out of it, so... thanks. 

 

But following that, judgement day. That’s when we see the actual team. Neilsons contract is up at the end of next season so, he will be judged on that team as to whether Budge and Savage opt to either extend him or make a change. He has to deliver something the supporters can rally behind. We have to believe Savage will have his ear on the ground and will know the discontent of the fans at being where we are vs where we want to be. 


 

 

Interesting post. 

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upgotheheads

"I think 352 suits the players we have and still allows Robbie to get his “go to” men on the field. We played 352 against Celtic in the final and more than match them. 352 also gives us numbers and overloads in all the areas of the park we require, especially when playing against sides in this league that favour 451. We also need to see a better tempo in possession. Quicker passing, quicker pressing and quicker to get the ball out wide. Something I hope Robbie is looking at. Sticking with 4231 is just going to enrage the fans more as it seems so easy to play against, as Morton showed yesterday and other sides in the league have shown over the season."

 

Nice thoughtful  post and I agree, I have always liked three at the back with two mobile wing-backs but we might be unable to play that at the moment. Berra's form, Haring's fitness and Brandon's injury  have robbed us of players who would allow us to play with three at the back, with Smith as one of the back three. 

Maybe, instead of throwing cash at wingers who aren't good enough, we should have concentrated on finding a good right-back and centre-back to allow us more flexibility in formations. 

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This is My Story Podcast

Thanks for the feedback folks. First time trying to write something that wasn’t just made hysterical ramblings of a an enraged fan haha! Robbies stats show a manager that knows how to win in the league, championship or the top flight. He has work to do across the board but that’s the same for all managers. I’d like to see him improve in the cups but then I’d say that about nearly every hearts manager in my life time. My frustrations with Robbie come from his stubbornness to sticking with what isn’t working, I’d like to see some concession to that on Friday. A change of shape would be nice but I’d be happy with just a change of game plan. Hearts biggest problem over the past however many years is it’s inability to adapt, in games, in the season and with set backs. 
 

Thanks for the feedback. Appreciate it. 

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number-16

You can pick examples of poor results for every manager, and most of them have a lot more bad results than Neilson has.

 

Even Burley lost in the League Cup to a Livingston side that went on to be relegated and drew with a Falkirk side that finished 10th. I'm sure if he'd stayed longer he'd have overseen more poor results I could point to, just like every manager.

 

I also remember someone posting the win rates of clubs that won the Championship in recent years and we were (and might still be) doing better than when Rangers got promoted, and in fact any club since Neilson last won the Championship with us.

 

We've done well under Neilson so far this time, coming agonisingly close to winning the Scottish Cup already this season. Give it time and leave your planes on the tarmac.

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Drumjambo
18 hours ago, JDK2020 said:

 

All credit on the commitment in compiling all the stats but it's scant comfort for anyone watching a turgid struggle against Alloa or Morton on a wet windy midweek evening.

And the thing is it will be even more of a struggle next season if things don't pick up significantly.

 

Factor in almost 400 quid to watch it Mmmmm!

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