First Team

Robbie: Focusing on priorities

20th August 2014

Head coach stresses that academy prospects need nights like this to progress in the game, as young Hearts side fall to defeat at Livingston.

Robbie Neilson adopted a pragmatic view of events in the wake of Hearts' 4-1 defeat in the second round of the Petrofac Training Cup in Livingston last night.

The Jambos rung the changes from Sunday's superb derby win over Hibs, with only Jordan McGhee retaining his place in the side after Jamie Walker's planned inclusion was ruled out following his suspension.

One of the youngest Hearts sides in history took to the field and will have learned a lot from the experience, despite the heavy defeat in the end. Robbie took the time to explain his thinking on how the game went:

"We made big changes to the side. We had five debutants starting and we managed to give debuts to seven apprentice players in total tonight", he said. "It's a great learning curve for the young lads. We used it as a chance to give the boys experience of competitive matches, and for the first hour we did well.

Despite the loss, the head coach took the view that the game would ultimately serve as a positive for these young players in the weeks and months to come, as they would all get their chance to contribute to what we all hope can be a successful season.

Although there were mistakes made, and inexperience shown, Robbie felt that these kinds of occurrences were inevitable, something which he's said all along would happen, and were the sort of thing there was no point getting frustrated over.

"We lost a goal from a corner, which is always going to happen when you compare the physicality of 16 and 17 year old boys next to men. When it went to 2-0, you start to focus on the performance rather than the score.

"If and when these boys play in the first team again, it'll be different. If Liam Smith comes in, he'll be alongside Danny Wilson and Alim Ozturk with Neil Alexander guiding him from the goals, so it makes it difficult to judge players.

Ultimately, Neilson was of the belief that - despite how others may view matches like these - the development of players was crucial to how Heart of Midlothian would be operating now, and in future, and that he learned far more tonight than he would have with his favoured side out on the pitch.

"The only way to develop players is this kind of environment, and yeah, you will lose games but they can take it on the chin. That's how they'll learn. We viewed this cup as a development cup. It would be so easy to put our strongest XI out there tonight, but that won't develop players.

"How will that develop Liam Smith, Angus Beith, Sean McKirdy and the rest if they're sitting in the stands watching the game? It won't, which is why it's vital to play them like tonight. That's them all made their debuts, and they're all Hearts players now."