Mr. Neilson won’t set targets…

Date: 15th September 2022

Our second blog from our Donald.

Mr. Neilson won’t set targets…

“The Gateway to Edinburgh”

Station Master at Haymarket Station, Edinburgh Mr. Neilson is in full flow.

“This side of the city is just magnificent and worthy of the title, Athens of the North, let me tell you.” He continues, “I am proud of being the station master who will be making sure you are being the people who make this place special. I shall be amongst you and with you at all times.”

His crowd hardly groan in anticipation… But they do groan, silently and inwardly…

Picture the scene…

It is 7am on a late summer’s morning and the day shift of ticket collectors, station assistants and front line staff are listening because… they have to.

Mr. Neilson is about to set out his agenda for the day and they are all nervously awaiting the PowerPoint, the flow charts, the significantly important statistics which accompany every morning briefing.

To be fair, says someone, he does it to the back shift and the night shift too. People wonder if he ever goes home.

Mr. Neilson has turned away to look in his maroon bag which he carries everywhere, the heart of his operation, he calls it. People often make fun of it, especially people who come from Leith…

After a look here and there, a moment or two of fumbling and an odd very quiet curse under his breath, Mr. Neilson turns to face the assembled throng.

“Now,” he begins. “You might be expecting me to go over yesterday’s figures, castigate a few sleepy heads, praise a few people who made the difference and most importantly.”

He pauses for effect.

“Set new targets!”

They all start to look at each other. This is exactly what they did expect and now they are left wondering what the hell was going on.

“But today,” he looks back up.

There is another significant pause.

“We shall not be setting any targets.”

There is a murmur. At the back wee Jane Snodgrass from accounts faints, a few of the lads at the front start to negotiate their own targets in case it is a joke and then, in the middle a hand shoots up.

Temporary front facing, ticketing operative Mr. English feels like he wants to ask a question. “Mr. Neilson, are you sure?”

He wasn’t, of course, he had left his laptop somewhere and the whole shebang was lost to him. He needed the technology, and he needed his notes. The wee white board he used to show ticketing flow tactics for peak periods was gone and he was incandescent, but he could not show it. Inside he was seething, outside he says, “I am Tom, yes I am.”

Then another hand goes up. It is station announcer, soon to be retired – many thought he already had been so got a bit of a shock when he popped up with his Aberdonian drawl – Mr. Gordon, who then asks, without a hand in the air. “But Mr. Neilson how will we know when the reports are accurate?”

“Richard,” begins Mr. Neilson. “I think we are all sufficiently experienced to know what targets we ought to be hitting so we don’t need the safety net of what I expect.” Just to be clear Mr. Neilson finishes with, “I expect everybody to do their jobs today.”

Down front, one of the wee boys in the leaf clearing duty team tries to be all matey and onside, saying, “Ah’m aroon aw day so Mr. Neilson if ye need anything done ahm aroon tae help ye.” His wee pal joins in “Ahm aroon tae. In fact, Mr. Neilson, sir, ah hink we are aw ehm aroon.”

But they were not all on side.

At the back of the grouping were 4 new Turkish workers who had managed to swap Mr. Neilson’s bag with an identical one. Nobody quite knew why, but the number 4 was to become significant later on, but not before this lanky big figure near the back of the crowd, clocked what was happening…

The Big Levein was down on a visit, had snuck into the meeting just to see what was going on, he and Mr. Neilson knew each other, and was wondering what he would do now – would he help Mr. Neilson or take advantage of the situation.

What a dilemma…


Whilst the author asserts his right to this as an original tale, there is no evidence that Robbie Neilson has ever been in charge of a railway station, Richard Gordon has not retired from Sportsound, Craig Levein hangs around Haymarket Station or Tom English has ever had to deal with tickets that were not free in his life, unless you know differently, so this is clearly a work of fiction.

The fact is that during the week, Robbie Neilson told the assembled media that he was not setting a points target for Hearts in the Europa Conference League before they lost 4-0 to Istanbul Basaksehir. Quoted in a BBC interview he said, “We can’t start thinking we are going to get x number of points throughout the group stage. We are playing against two top seeds who, are top teams.” Statisticians will be able to point that X=0 at the moment.


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