HEARTS manager Robbie Neilson said the club knocked back a bid for defender John Souttar amid speculation he could seal a move to Ibrox this month.

The Scotland international signed a pre-contract with Rangers last week and started in the midweek victory over St Johnstone. During that match he was showered with boos from his own support and still managed to put in one of the performances of the evening.

Missing completely from yesterday’s teamsheet for Hearts’ Scottish Cup fourth-round tie over Auchinleck Talbot 5-0, speculation began to mount that a move to Glasgow was imminent for Souttar.

Asked after his side’s 5-0 win over the West of Scotland League side, Neilson said the ball-playing centre-half missed the game due to injury, despite the speculation his omission lead to. ”John has a problem with his ankle after the game the other night [versus St Johnstone],” he said.

“I know everyone thinks they know what’s happening but it was on his Achilles so we felt there was no point bringing him down here and we’ll just keep him up there and available for [the match versus |Celtic on] Wednesday unless things change.

The Gorgie side are reportedly holding out for around £500,000 for Souttar, with Rangers believed to have submitted a bid around £200,000 shy of that amount.

“We’ve had a bid in which has been knocked out the ballpark,” continued Neilson, “but we will wait to see if anything else comes in.

“We value John very very highly so if anyone is going to take him in this window they will need to pay for him because we are aiming for the Scottish Cup and European football and we need to keep our best players here.

“He will be unless something else comes in that is suitable for us.”

Hearts progressed to the Scottish Cup fifth round through goals from Andy Halliday, Peter Haring and Alex Cochrane, with a double from Liam Boyce.

It could have been more were it not for some poor officiating. Liam Boyce was denied twice by erroneous offside calls, one after he’d netted, while referee Greg Aitken and his assistants completely missed a clear handball in the box from Talbot’s Craig McCracken.

“The officials will need a Panadol tonight!” said Neilson. “Thankfully it didn’t have a bearing on the game, but there were a couple of decisions which should have gone our way.”