STEPHEN ELLIOTT will sample a cup final for the first time in his career today and is determined to leave Hearts silverware as a parting gift from the biggest Edinburgh derby in history.
The Irish internationalist is out of contract in a matter of weeks and, with Hearts required to offer him an extension before May 31 or lose him for free, his future appears to lie away from Tynecastle.
Elliott intends to experience one glorious last hurrah at Hampden Park this afternoon.
Having never played in a cup final, he is eager to beat Hibs in a game that will go down in history. The 28-year-old is expected to start the match if Craig Beattie cannot prove his fitness in time. Failing that, he will at least be amongst the Hearts substitutes for what could be the most definitive match of his career.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a game that mattered so much to so many people. As the game gets nearer, I think everybody might get butterflies in their stomachs,” said Elliott.
“I’ve never played in a cup final before. I’ve played in Premier League games in England, games that would decide promotion, and I’ve played in important World Cup qualifiers for my country. This is up there as one of the biggest, if not the biggest. There have been some good highs in my career but if we beat Hibs it will top everything.” Elliott has scored only 11 times in 64 appearances for Hearts - two of which came against Hibs - which he admitted was a source of disappointment. “As a forward, I would like to have scored more goals,” he said. “But I’ve really enjoyed my time here. The fans have been great and really got behind us, especially this season when things got tough. That’s spurred us on to get to the cup final and hopefully we can repay them with some silverware.
“Every player has dreamed about scoring a goal in a cup final. I’m no different. I don’t care who scores the goals, as long as we come out victorious. If it is to be my last game, then there would be no better way to go out than winning the cup.”
As to his future, he will only consider his next destination once the cup final is over. “I haven’t really thought about anything other than the match because it’s so important. I haven’t given my future much thought. When we reached the cup final I knew that was going to be the last game of the season. Whatever happens next will happen.”*