Hearts v Liverpool: Hearts winger David Templeton is fresh and ready to turn it on against Liverpool

David Templeton: Raring to go after suspension. Picture: Ian Rutherford

David Templeton: Raring to go after suspension. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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DAVID TEMPLETON is expected to return to Hearts’ starting line-up this evening, and the timing could not be better.

A two-game domestic suspension means the winger is fresh and ready to take on Liverpool in the Europa League play-off first leg. He won’t be overawed, more itching to get at one of England’s elite and prove that he can live in such exalted company.

• Free inside today’s Evening News - “HOPE IN YOUR HEARTS”, your souvenir pullout to tonight’s match against Liverpool. Feature interviews with Edgaras Jankauskas, Vladimir Romanov and more.

Rumours of interest in 
Templeton from south of the border have lingered for a 
couple of years now. 
Everton are aware of his talent, as are Watford and several other clubs. Many will be watching this evening’s contest closely to see which Hearts players look comfortable among the 
Liverpool luminaries.

Templeton isn’t the type to seek a move away from Hearts, the club which plucked him from Stenhousemuir at the age of 16 and nurtured him through their Riccarton youth academy. Since being thrust on to the big stage, he has often dazzled and sometimes frustrated. For him, this is the chance to prove his undoubted potential.

“This is the only way you know if you can cope or not. This is the level you want to play at,” he told the Evening News. “You want to play against the best players, so tonight will be good to see what level I’m at and if I can cope with the big boys. I’ve started this season a lot better than I did last season. I’ve had a good pre-season and I’ve felt sharp in the games.

“Getting a suspension isn’t great, but it means if I do play then I’m fresh. I’ve had a bit of recovery time and, obviously, I’ll have to miss this Sunday’s game so I’ll be fresh for next week as well. I just hope the manager picks me.”

Indications are John McGlynn, the man entrusted with plotting Liverpool’s downfall, will do just that. Templeton’s two competitive performances this season against St Johnstone and Hibs were quite scintillating, until he kicked out at James McPake and incurred the wrath of the Scottish Football Association’s compliance officer.

“I felt like I was playing well. Even in the first half against Hibs I felt like I’d started well,” continued Templeton. “It’s not the best time to be suspended because I wanted to play at the weekend then go into this game feeling confident. I intend to take my performances in the St Johnstone and Hibs games into tonight.

“I definitely was playing well in those two matches. Against St Johnstone I had a good game and it was the first time I’d played really well in quite a while, to be honest. I felt 
confident, I was taking people on and going past my man. I felt a lot more confident than I did last season. I think the way the gaffer wants me to play helps. If you have a manager who is confident in you, then you will play better.”

Hearts will look to their wide players to produce the bulk of their creativity tonight. 
Liverpool, having left Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Jose 
Enrique, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel behind on 
Merseyside, are there to be shot at from the hosts’ perspective.

“That’s the way it’s always been. When I’ve been in the team, I’ve always been relied on to create stuff,” said Templeton. “I’m sure the other wingers 
feel the same. It’s the same at every club. There are always certain players who are there to try and create things. I’ve had that since I started playing football.

“We know all about Liverpool and how good they are. Even the players who don’t normally play are really good. It’s going to be tough and I want to go forward, but I also need to make sure I track back and help out my full-back. We need to go into the game with confidence. We need to get on the ball and play the way we can play rather than be scared. All the boys are up for it.

“It’s weird saying you’re 
going to be playing against Jamie Carragher or someone like that. These are players you’ve grown up watching on Match of the Day but you want to play against them. It’ll certainly be a great experience. Some of us have been laughing about being up against these guys. There’s nothing else you can do knowing you’re coming up against them.”

Templeton featured in both legs of Hearts’ 5-0 aggregate loss to Tottenham Hotspur at the same stage of the same competition 12 months ago. He doesn’t expect a repeat. “Hopefully we can keep the ball and make Liverpool do a bit of running rather than us being the ones doing the chasing and then getting tired. We need to make them do the running about and make sure it’s not like it was against Tottenham.

“We sat off them and didn’t press them the way we should have. We didn’t press as a team and I think that’s what we’ve got to do tonight. We’ve got to do it together and force 
Liverpool into making 
mistakes. If we give them time on the ball then they will play and create chances. We can’t let them play.”

That sentiment was echoed by McGlynn, who wants his players to start with power and pace in the hope of overwhelming their guests. “If we stand back and just admire them, we will just watch them playing and we’ll get played round and probably beaten,” he explained. “Our boys should have confidence in their own ability and getting the crowd behind us will be key to us getting some sort of result to keep the tie alive. We want to progress in the tournament but we must have belief.

“We’ve seen Liverpool against Gomel and they didn’t do that well, albeit it was a few weeks ago now. They’ve probably come on a bit since then but, nonetheless, we do take some confidence from the fact that they didn’t do so well away from home. They won the match 1-0 and they could have lost three or four goals. We need to try and upset them.”

• Free inside today’s Evening News - “HOPE IN YOUR HEARTS”, your souvenir pullout to tonight’s match against Liverpool. Feature interviews with Edgaras Jankauskas, Vladimir Romanov and more.