Lawrence Shankland explains fighting back from rejection to become Hearts captain
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Lawrence Shankland’s record-breaking first season at Hearts is a source of enormous pride for the striker. Sceptics were silenced by 28 goals in 47 appearances in maroon, with Shankland also given the captain’s armband in December after Craig Gordon’s injury. He is entitled to feel the prosperity has been hard-earned.
Six years ago, he was released by Aberdeen and spent months without a club before joining Ayr United. Loan spells at Dunfermline, St Mirren and Morton didn’t end with contract offers and he found himself in League One at Somerset Park. Since then, Shankland’s resilience and tenacity have rebuilt his career to the point where he is now with the Scotland squad at a training camp in Spain.
Goals galore at Ayr, then Dundee United, and an unfruitful spell in Belgium preceded a six-figure transfer to Hearts last summer. He became the first Tynecastle player to hit 20 goals in a season since John Robertson and is now idolised by the club’s supporters.
“It was a really strong season for me,” said Shankland in an interview with the Scottish FA. “My performances were at a high standard and I was really happy with them. The number of goals I managed to chip in with was great. It was obviously my first season at Hearts so it was good to get off to a good start.
“The captaincy was an opportunity which came about, I probably didn't expect it when I first went there. When it was offered to me, I was keen to take on that role. I felt it was something that could improve my all-round game and improve me as a person. I felt I took it in my stride really well and handled it. It was a huge learning opportunity for me and hopefully it stands me in good stead for the future.
“There have been a lot of rejections on the way but it comes down to hard work and determination. You know your own goals and what you want to achieve in your career. Obviously there are times, like at Ayr, when I couldn't really have dreamed of getting a Scotland cap. You just need to knuckle down, keep working hard, and when you work hard enough things pay off and you get these opportunities.
“I've taken most of them first-time and done well at all different clubs. It has been an up-and-down journey but I've worked hard and feel I deserve the stuff that comes your way. I was three months without a club and then the opportunity to go to Ayr came up and I was ready for it. I was fit and kept myself busy. When I got there, I made sure it paid off. I did really well when I was there.”
Having played a brief substitute’s role in March’s historic victory over Spain, Shankland hopes to be more involved when Scotland play Norway and Georgia in forthcoming European Championship qualifiers. The campaign opened with a 3-0 success against Cyprus before the 2-0 triumph over Spain.
“The last two games were really good results and we've given ourselves a really good opportunity going into these two games,” he said. “If we get positive results, we could be in a really good position.”