Neilson prepped for Celtic clash by watching Arbroath

By David Walton

December 20, 2020

As both Celtic and Hearts geared up for today’s Scottish Cup final at Hampden, Robbie Neilson made an unusual move.

With just under 24 hours until his side were due to face the Hoops, Neilson left the club’s hotel. Instead of staying with his troops, the Hearts manager had decided to take in Arbroath vs Ayr United.

Indeed, Neilson actually allowed his mind to drift into Hearts’ next matches after Celtic. The Jambos will host Ayr next weekend before doing the same vs Arbroath three days later. Despite Celtic and Hearts battling it out today, Neilson’s prep for today’s game was clearly over.

Speaking ahead of the game, the Hearts boss explained his reasons for looking ahead after the final.

As quoted by the Daily Record, Neilson said: “The build-up is still the same, whether it’s now or the end of the season, you still have a good week’s training leading into it.

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“We had the league games that we had to take care of and I’ll be going up to watch Arbroath v Ayr United before travelling down.

“We’ll train at Riccarton then the boys are going to the hotel – so I’d only be sitting about at the hotel anyway. I’d rather be watching a game!”

Hearts will be left reinvigorated ahead of Celtic game

Whilst at face value this may look naive from Neilson, you can bet Hearts will come out flying.

The Tynecastle manager has clearly decided to give his team the day off before the game. With a full week of tactical analysis and training heading into Hampden, they’ll be fully prepared. Giving his men the day off will allow them to refresh.

Neil Lennon, by contrast, has kept tight-lipped over how he’s approaching this afternoon’s game. With Celtic facing Ross County on Wednesday night, yesterday could’ve been the only free day for the players to have off. Lennon will need them in tomorrow and Tuesday to prep appropriately.

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson will face Celtic today (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

But it’s certainly an unusual step from Neilson not to spend his time in the hotel. To instead be out at another game and looking ahead shows some terrific forward-thinking. It would’ve been easy for him to enjoy the perks of Anne Budge’s “considerable expense” (Edinburgh Evening News).

This move from him will undoubtedly see a Hearts side fully refreshed and ready to take the game to Celtic. Whilst Neilson may have left the hotel yesterday, Hearts’ playing squad will have been relaxing. We have to be ready for the energy that’s going to hit us today.

Here’s hoping our own preparation will be just as beneficial.

In other news, Lennon has noticed something “great” at Lennoxtown this week.