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Hearts journey from relegation to Europe is down to fans – Robbie Neilson

Heart of Midlothian v Hibernian – Scottish Cup – Semi Final – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Steve Welsh)

Robbie Neilson paid tribute to the Hearts fans after they roared the Jambos to a 2-1 Scottish Cup semi-final win over Hibernian at Hampden Park on Saturday.

The former Gorgie defender returned to Tynecastle for his second spell as boss in June 2020, after the Edinburgh club had been controversially relegated to the Scottish Championship when the 2019-20 season was curtailed due to Covid-19.

Hearts returned to the top flight as champions at the end of last season and, having guaranteed themselves a third-place finish, they are now 90 minutes away from a first Scottish Cup final win since 2012.

Neilson reflected on the recent journey of the club, telling HeartsTV: “We had the low of being demoted and the frustration of that and being told to stop training, not knowing what league we were in, trying to recruit players and we couldn’t get them in.

“We are sitting here third in the league, guaranteed group-stage European football next season with a Scottish Cup final to look forward to.

“It all comes down to the backing of the fans.

“The Foundation of Hearts are the ones that have made this happen, putting their money in week in, week out, month in, month out and 22,000 people going to Hampden on Saturday. If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t have this.

“So it is really important and I drum it home to the players all the time that, yes, it is about medals and winning things, but it is about giving it back to the fans and saying we will send you up the road happy.”

Hearts had comfortably beaten their Edinburgh rivals 3-1 in the cinch Premiership at Tynecastle last week, but Saturday was a different proposition.

Wonderful strikes from forward Ellis Simms and defender Stephen Kingsley gave the Jambos a two-goal lead inside 21 minutes, before Chris Cadden immediately reduced the deficit.

Fellow Hibs midfielder Joe Newell was sent off in the 64th minute by referee John Beaton for picking up a second yellow card for a foul on Peter Haring.

Although Shaun Maloney’s side kept pushing valiantly for a leveller, Hearts held out to reach  their third Scottish Cup final in four years and ensure they would be in European football of some sort up until Christmas next season

Neilson added: “I was absolutely delighted.

“It was a real tough game. Other than the first 20 minutes, we didn’t play at the levels we have done this season and it ended up being a real grind at the end to get through.

“But derbies are like that, especially semi-final derbies… the backing of the fans was absolutely phenomenal, with 22,000 fans absolutely rocking at the end.

“We sent them up the road happy, we have had back-to-back derby wins and it is on to the final now.”

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