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Neilson happy to welcome city rivals

THE demotion of Hibernian could be viewed as a mixed blessing for their city rivals.

Or so you might have thought. While Hearts no longer face the capital cringe of being a division below their Edinburgh rivals, they have also acquired another high-powered competititor to escape the division. For head coach Robbie Neilson, however, the pros outweigh the cons, mainly for the added motivation it will provide his players to succeed.

"Financially, it's good news," said Neilson. "To get two derbies at home. And it will be good, because our players have a lot of experience of playing these games already. It's another motivation for us, another target. We're already targeting Rangers, now we're targeting Hibs as well. It will be good for the fans, good for the league in general. The Championship will be one of the main focuses of the season. Celtic will run away with the title again, they'll have it wrapped up by February or March."

If that is the good news, the bad news from last Sunday is the story it tells of the respective standards of the two divisions. Despite being the better team over two legs against Hibs, Hamilton lost to all three of the part-time sides in a harum scarum championship - Dumbarton, Alloa and Cowdenbeath - and further embarrassment could await for the big guns this season.

"I'll be honest, I watched a lot of the Championship, and I expected whoever finished 11th in the Premiership to win the play-off," said Neilson. "And especially when they won 2-0 away. But when the pressure is on and you lose a goal the way they did, it can be difficult, the way things have been going for them. The physicality of the top division is probably stronger than the Championship but football-wise, and especially on the astro, Hamilton pass it about for fun. They know what they're doing.

"And we know - and Hibs and Rangers will have the same issues - that when you go to a Queen of the South or a Dumbarton it's a massive game. And when teams come to Tynecastle, it's such a great atmosphere, that teams will be up for it as well. There won't be easy games."

Ann Budge's planning allows for two years to get out of the championship, but Hearts clearly plan on doing it quicker. They have been offering three-year deals to players - they have been linked with the likes of Morgaro Gomis, Darren McGregor and Rudi Skacel - but have so far been unable to get them over the line.

"We want to get guys in to get us out of the Championship and get us back into the top six," he said. "We don't want to just be giving one-year deals, then have to get someone else. It's important to get the right ones, though, because we don't have a big enough budget to waste money."

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