Neilson Delight As Hearts Go Up

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson praised the hard work of his players and the backing of their fans after the club's return to the top flight was confirmed.

Hearts secured the Scottish Championship title with seven games to spare after nearest rivals Hibernian lost 2-0 to Rangers at Easter Road.

That left Hearts 23 points clear - and 26 ahead of pre-season title favourites Rangers - following an incredible campaign so far.

Hearts have scored 84 goals, 29 more than Hibs, and conceded only 18, eight less than their city rivals. Neilson's side have won 25 of their 29 league games so far and have only lost once - at home to Falkirk in January.

Their promotion marks a complete turnaround in the club's fortunes since they went into administration following the collapse of former owner Vladimir Romanov's business empire. The financial backing of fans - more than 8,000 of whom joined the Foundation of Hearts to repay new owner Ann Budge's loan to the club and provide running costs - has saved the club and allowed them to thrive.

Neilson told Sky Sports News: "It's been a long season for us, a long hard season. We've worked really hard, the players have been magnificent and we've given something back to the fans.

"They've been great for us the last couple of years. They backed us last year when we got relegated, and they've backed us to the hilt this year in the chase to get back up again and we've managed to deliver.''

Neilson did not even get to watch the deciding game as he was attending a coaching course at Stirling University at 9am on Sunday morning.

His hard work has been successfully transmitted to the players, who are regularly in at the same time on a Sunday and have been treated to triple sessions at times.

The dedication has paid off and they put themselves within touching distance of the title on Saturday with a 3-0 win at promotion-chasing Falkirk thanks to goals from Jamie Walker, Genero Zeefuik and James Keatings.

Neilson told the club's official website: "It's been a long season for us, a long hard season. It's also testament to the support we've had from the fans, it's also due to the hard work from Ann Budge, Craig Levein and all of the players.

"Everything that we have asked them to do, they have done it and they deserve every minute of it.

"The key factor has been the hard work from the players. They have bought into the changes made to the training regime. They have worked hard and they deserve everything.

"I couldn't ask any more of them, every day at training they give everything. Every game they give me everything and to a man they have been fantastic this season.''

Director of football Craig Levein also paid tribute to Budge, who put in £2.5million to save the club from liquidation.

The former Scotland boss wrote on Twitter: "Ann Budge OBE............. Over Before Easter''.

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