Craig Levein hopes Kyle Lafferty reaches 20 goals this season to become Hearts’ most prolific forward since John Robertson.
The Northern Irishman’s current total is 17 and three more would see him ranked the most deadly goalscorer at Tynecastle in more than quarter of a century.
Saturday’s 3-0 win over Partick Thistle saw Lafferty claim his 17th competitive strike in his 34th appearance of the campaign. Signed as a free agent last summer, he is now closing in on Rudi Skacel’s 18-goal total from season 2011/12.
Robertson’s tallies in the 1990s remain a realistic target with seven games remaining in the Ladbrokes Premiership. The current Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager struck 19 times for Hearts in season 1996/97 and hit 20 in 1991/92.
No player has reached the 20-goal mark in Gorgie in the intervening 26 years, and manager Levein feels that is now the challenge for Lafferty.
“Kyle has had a good season and he probably could have had a few more goals, as he would probably tell you himself. Hopefully he can make it to 20. That would be really good for us and for him,” Levein told the Evening News. “You can’t grumble with his record at all and he’s been a great character to have about the place as well. This has been a pretty up-and-down season all in for the team but I don’t think we can complain about his contribution. He’s been excellent.”
Levein also reported that Lafferty is coping well with his gambling addiction. The pair held talks last week and the manager is encouraged by the 30-year-old’s response since making his problems public.
“He’s been pretty good. I was talking to him last week about it. He’s still going to his classes and behaving himself so he seems to be in a good place,” added Levein.