Craig Levein is determined to lead Hearts to their first notable Scottish Cup run since they won the competition in 2012.
The Tynecastle side will reach the quarter-finals for the first time in six years if they defeat St Johnstone in Gorgie tomorrow.
Hearts have won the Scottish Cup three times in the past 20 years, and Levein is well aware of the need to start making an impact at the business end of the tournament once more after five consecutive early exits, three of which came at the hands of Hibs and two against Celtic.
“A cup run is always important for Hearts, every season,” said Levein. “You don’t get to choose when you have a good Cup run. Some years things go for you and others they don’t. As a club we’ve done quite well in the competition since 1998 and I’m certainly hoping we can have a run this year. Whether we do that or not, it’s in the lap of the gods at times. We’ve lost to Hibs in the last two years, haven’t we? And twice to Celtic. Our record in the cup historically is quite good in recent years but we haven’t done so well for a while. 2012 was the last win.”
Levein knows that a prolonged Scottish Cup run will invigorate a group of supporters who haven’t had a trip to Hampden since the League Cup final defeat by St Mirren five years ago. Following the euphoria of eliminating their city rivals in the previous round last month and with the club due to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1998 triumph, the manager is hopeful that cup-related fervour is able to continue building in Gorgie beyond this weekend.
“I’m hoping we can add to that excitement (of the 1998 anniversary) by winning this game and progressing,” he said.
“Whilst Celtic are as strong as they are, and Aberdeen have done remarkably well to push them fairly close in the last few seasons, it’s difficult to win the league and everyone accepts that.
“Then it leaves you with two cup competitions and we need to do better in the cup competitions. It brings a level of excitement, between Hibs and Saturday there is the feeling of, I can’t wait for the cup tie. If we get through this it will be the same until the next round.”
Levein is eager to finally experience winning a major trophy after failing to do so as a player or a manager to date.
“That’s one thing I’d like to do,” said the 53-year-old. “I’ve played in some big matches, and been involved in some finals and in a lot of important football matches but I would like to (win a trophy).”
Dundee United’s Scottish Cup triumph under Peter Houston in 2010 gave Levein some satisfaction since he had put most of the squad together prior to leaving for the Scotland manager’s job just five months previously.
“I was thrilled to bits when United won it. Would I like to have been the manager? Yeah, of course, but Housty did a brilliant job.
“I got some gratification out of it knowing the team was put together under my watch but Housty did a brilliant job.”