Hearts' Sean Clare has his say on Dele Alli and Colin Cameron comparisons
Interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, comparisons with Dele Alli and Colin Cameron. Sean Clare doesn't covet attention but it seems to follow him around. All he wants is to prove himself to the Hearts support and gradually realise his full potential in Scotland.
Ahead of tonight’s Premiership match with Livingston, Clare spoke to the Evening News about the difficulties of simply conducting his business quietly. He didn’t make remarks about a likeness to Alli, or generate reports about English Premier League scouts watching him at former club Sheffield Wednesday. Nonetheless, he finds himself living with the resultant publicity of them.
The Hearts manager Craig Levein recently stated that Clare reminded him of Cameron, a Scottish Cup winner and bona fide legend at Tynecastle Park. It was a bold statement about a 22-year-old midfielder who has made just nine appearances in maroon to date.
Clare took the comments in good faith but remains grounded and focused on finding optimum form having joined Hearts on the back of summer ankle surgery.
“The manager has compared me to a Hearts legend, which is a great boost for me because I know he believes in me, but I’ve still got a long way to go before I get to that level. I’ve got a lot more to show,” said the Englishman.
“It’s similar to when people have said I’m like Dele Alli. I’ve never said that. A lot of people think I said it but I’ve never said it. It’s a great thing to hear but there’s a long way to go before I reach the levels of any of those players.
“Whenever you step on the football pitch, you’re in the limelight. It’s great that the manager trusts me but I know and he knows I have a long way before I get to that point. I don’t think it puts any more pressure on me. I just have to do my bit when I get on the pitch, keep improving and working hard. Hopefully I can reach that level and show the fans what I’ve got.”
He is irked that the common perception is he likened himself to Alli, one of Britain’s most talented attacking midfielder.
“Yeah, a little bit. A lot of people assume I said it myself, that I’m like Dele Alli. Personally, I don’t even think we play in a similar way. I think it’s got a lot to do with how we look and maybe our running styles. It’s nice to hear things like that but I’ve never said it and I have a good distance to go before I’m at that level.
“I believe that, with hard work and perseverance, I can get to those levels. However, it’s a bit away just now. I just have to take each step as I go.”
Being linked with Tottenham and Everton last season – Leeds United, Aston Villa and Rangers were also credited with an interest – meant raised eyebrows when Clare signed a three-year contract with Hearts in September.
“It’s better to block that kind of stuff out. I think there was interest but I made my decision to come to Hearts for the right reasons,” he stressed. “I think it’s a great place for me to develop and learn my trade properly at a great club with great supporters and great staff. I think I made the right decision.
“I didn’t really delve into the interest too much so I don’t know how solid some of it was. I just felt Hearts was the right place for me to be and hopefully I can show that with some more performances. I want to put in better performances every week.”
The player feels his best position is that attacking central midfield role. “I like to join in the attacks from midfield, either from just in behind the striker or as an attacking No.8. I’m happy to play wherever the gaffer puts me. It’s down to me to put in a performance whatever position I’m in. I don’t mind.
“It’s good to be playing games but it’s up to me to stay in the team now. I need to keep improving. The gaffer is giving me chances so I need to do my best in every game and make something happen. I feel I’m getting sharper and more confident with every game, more like myself. I don’t think I’m quite there yet but I don’t think I’m far off. I’d say I’m very close.”
Clare’s main assets are technical rather than physical and moving to Scotland has forced him to adapt. Playing Livingston away on an astroturf pitch is a case in point.
“I know it will be a battle. I watched the game when we played them at home as I wasn’t involved. We drew 0-0,” he recalled. “It was tough and I know it’s going to be scrappy at times tonight. If we play to our qualities, win our battles and play when we can play, I think we will be alright. Obviously the pitch is different but it’s no different for us than it is for them. We have to put that out of our heads, go there to do a job and carry on our winning run after beating Motherwell last week.
“The pace of the game is very quick here and the physicality is high. Everyone is in amongst it. Some games are more battles than actual football. That’s just how it is. If some teams aren’t playing well or don’t have as much quality as the bigger clubs, you have to find a way to win. We have to deal with that.
“We’ve got players with a lot of quality but they also need to dig in, like all of us. It’s a bit different to England but I’ve got to adapt to the league. I feel I’m getting more used to it with every game.
“I’ve always done extra gymwork and stuff, it’s more a mindset to make sure I’m ready for it. I think I can cope physically and at times I’ve shown that. You have to be switched on to everything because of the pace here, be ready to react or get there before your opponent.”