As Weir linked with new role

Neilson clinches surprise return as Hearts manager

Robbie Neilson is back in football in Scotland as head coach of Dundee United

Excited: Robbie Neilson (pic: SNS Group)

Robbie Neilson has completed a surprise return to Hearts as manager, signing a three-year contract at Tynecastle.

Despite signing a two-year extension to his agreement with Dundee United in October, the former Jambo jumped at the chance to take charge of the Edinburgh club for the second time after a compensation package was agreed.

Although Hearts’ official statement failed to mention Daniel Stendel, who was appointed boss after the sacking of Craig Levein in November, the news confirmed the German’s departure.

Neilson’s first spell in the dug-out began in the Championship in 2014 and he guided the Gorgie side back to the top flight with a record-breaking campaign.

A third-place Premiership finish followed the season after before he left to join MK Dons in 2016, returning to Scotland with Dundee United later that same year.

He led United to the Championship title last season, with the Tannadice club set to replace Hearts in the Premiership. The Tynecastle side are currently disputing their relegation, with a legal challenge launched at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

“You don’t turn down the chance to come to a club like Hearts and I’m absolutely delighted to be coming back,” Neilson said. “I had some great experiences here, both as a player and manager, and I’m keen to pick up where I left off.

“Everyone knows there is a really good squad at Hearts and I’m excited to begin working with the players and staff.

“Finally, I’d like to say thank you to Dundee United for the opportunity they gave me two years ago. I hope the United fans feel that together we managed to restore the club back to where it belongs.”

Former Barnsley boss Stendel won five of his 17 matches in charge and secured a place in the Scottish Cup semi-finals. He had a break clause in his contract should Hearts be relegated but only recently spoke of his desire to continue.

Hearts owner Ann Budge will now turn her focus to appointing a sporting director, with former player and ex-Rangers assistant David Weir linked with the new role.

Neilson’s arrival at Tynecastle is the second high-profile managerial appointment in Scotland in the space of a few days, with Callum Davidson having penned a three-year contract as Tommy Wright’s successor at St Johnstone.

Davidson had been No. 2 to Gary Rowett at Millwall.

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