Hearts ace Sean Clare on his penalty process, standing ovation and Jake Mulraney's airpods

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The versatile Englishman was one of the few success stories of the past season for the Tynecastle side

Hearts star Sean Clare praised the Hearts fans for an "amazing" response to the red card he received against Aberdeen in the final fixture of 2019.

Earlier that month the 23-year-old was taken off in Daniel Stendel's first game, a 1-0 loss to St Johnstone at Tynecastle, and was greeted by a mixture of boos and sarcastic cheers.

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Yet, a switch to right-back and a host of committed displays saw him win over the fans. Even when Alan Muir sent him off for denying Dons forward Jon Gallagher a clear goalscoring opportunity with a tug back outside the box, the reception from the home support was significantly more positive.

Sean Clare talked penalties, the move to right-back and Jake Mulraney's airpods. Picture: SNSSean Clare talked penalties, the move to right-back and Jake Mulraney's airpods. Picture: SNS
Sean Clare talked penalties, the move to right-back and Jake Mulraney's airpods. Picture: SNS

"It was a strange one," Clare said as he undertook an Instagram Q&A. "I appreciated it ten fold. It was something that made me feel great then I realised I had got red carded which wasn't great.

"It was something that made me feel amazing, the support for my performance that day and for the team.

"If anyone sees the video you can see me waving to the team and kind of saying to the fans as much as I could that I loved the support and it was an amazing thing but the team needed you and the fans got right behind the team."

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Clare's upturn in form coincided with the move to right-back where he excelled, aided by Daniel Stendel's desire for his full-backs to push high up the park.

He said: "I played a bit before I came to Hearts and a little bit at Hearts before making a firmer transition. It wasn’t brand new to me but it wasn’t somewhere I played a lot.

"It was difficult at first but if I’m able to be on the pitch and help the team that’s the main thing.

"I actually enjoyed playing in the style of play the new gaffer was playing. He wanted his full-backs very high so it was almost like a winger role. I was also able to get the ball more because I was deeper so could get the ball off more players.

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"I enjoyed it. I was trying to learn as much as I can there and still am trying to learn as much as I can about that position as well as other positions.

"I’m ready to play whichever position I am asked to play when it comes down to playing games again."

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After years of having players who proved erratic from the penalty spot, which followed the reliability of Paul Hartley and Bruno Aguiar, Clare has further endeared himself to the Hearts support with his consistency on penalties.

He netted three times from 12 yards after the winter break, including crucial strikes against Falkirk in the Scottish Cup and the opening goal in the 3-1 derby win over Hibs at Easter Road, the latter he views as his favourite goal.

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"Because of the magnitude of it and the game," he said. "The atmosphere, the pressure, the win at the end of the day was a great one.

"Practice and practising penalties has allowed me to be a little bit more chill when taking them.

"Even when Conor Washington was taking penalties because I had missed one I was still practising them with him and I think when you are practising something over and over and over you feel a lot more comfortable executing it when it comes down to it.

"There are still a few nerves but it’s about focusing as much as I can on the ball, what’s going on with the keeper rather than focusing on the crowd or the score."

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During the Q&A, Clare, who revealed he ex-Liverpool ace Fernando Torres was a hero growing up, was joined by former Hearts team-mates Jake Mulraney and Clevid Dikamona.

The 23-year-old jumped to the defence of the former who faced criticism from fans and pundits for wearing earphones during the warm up prior to the 2-0 loss to Hibs at Tynecastle in December.

Clare said it was "blown out of proportion" and that the Irishman's heart is always in the right place.

Mulraney explained the error on Instagram that month: "Just to clear up the airpod situation. I went from checking set pieces straight into the toilets (by this time the music was off), heard the shout that we're going out and ran straight from the toilets to the tunnel not knowing I'd forgotten to take them out.

"Realised 20 seconds after I'd gone out they were still in and ran straight back in to take them out. I understand it looks bad but I'd never do that intentionally."

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