Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has spoken about John Souttar’s move to Rangers on a pre-contract and confirmed he’s happy to play the defender for the remainder of the season despite his looming transfer.
Souttar has come in for some horrific abuse from Hearts fans after his move to Ibrox this summer was announced and the Jambos boss confirmed the Scotland international kept the Tynecastle side informed every step of the way.
While some Hearts fans – and Rangers fans for that matter – would be happy to see him move across the M8 before the end of the month, Neilson wants to keep his best players around as he looks to secure European football.
“The most important thing is the football club and the team going forward,” Neilson said. “The objective is to try and get European football so we have to utilise the squad and use our best players – and John is one of our best players. He will be available for selection until things change.
“It’s part and parcel of football. We offered John a contract and he decided to turn it down and the way the Bosman rule works, he was free to go and speak to clubs. We knew he was speaking to other clubs and he’s decided to go elsewhere. We’re very, very disappointed he’s decided to do that but at the end of the day the club is, and always will be, bigger than any one player.”
While some have suggested Souttar’s head could be turned by the prospect of his summer move, Neilson has spoken with the defender and been assured he’ll give his all between now and May for Hearts before officially becoming a Rangers player.
“I’ve spoken to John, he understands the situation and he’s big enough and old enough that he knows he has to make sure his head is right. He’s reassured us that he’ll give us 100% in training – which he has – and 100% if selected.”
John’s been very open with his situation. First and foremost, we offered him a contract and he knocked that back and said he was going to speak to clubs. He’s kept us informed that he was speaking with teams so we knew what was happening. Once he’s made his decision, we have to accept it.