Lawrence Shankland hits a Hearts record not seen for 35 years and answers the question on changing-room issues

Saturday’s 6-1 rampage against Ross County saw the Tynecastle side touch the heights after a dismal run.
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Lawrence Shankland takes his responsibilities as Hearts captain seriously. A hat-trick against Ross County earned personal plaudits, but more important to him is the impetus and confidence team-mates should garner from a result which halted six consecutive defeats.

Talk of friction in the dressing-room surfaced recently, manager Robbie Neilson was sacked, midfielder Robert Snodgrass jettisoned, and Steven Naismith appointed interim manager. Saturday saw Naismith’s influence at play as Hearts attacked County mercilessly and might have won by a margin greater than 6-1.

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Asked if the display proved there is togetherness at Tynecastle Park, Shankland replied: “It's not hard to see when you put in performances like that. Obviously, when things are difficult, everybody reads into everything in every little detail and everything is wrong. It's just about getting a win again. You get confidence from it and everybody feels together again. The league split is hugely important for where we are going to end up at the end of the season and we can go into it on a high.

“It's always good to get goals and, when a hat-trick comes along, you take it. The last finish was decent as well. I enjoyed that one and I went up the road with the match ball. I've just moved into a new house so I'm sure the missus will be telling me to put it in the cupboard, but I'll find somewhere for it.”

He now has 25 goals this season and is the first Hearts player to score more than 22 in a campaign since John Robertson netted 31 in 1987/88. Shankland’s second against County came from the penalty spot following a VAR check of defender Dylan Smith’s trip on the striker. As referee Don Robertson checked the incident on a pitchside monitor, Shankland was placing the ball on the spot.

“I was having a laugh with him about it but I don't know how he didn't see it. He should actually have heard it,” smiled Shankland. “The boy kicked my foot so hard. I was convinced it was a penalty. I was hoping if I made my way to the penalty spot then it might persuade VAR a wee bit.”

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Goals and victories imbue players with belief and Shankland played his part on Saturday. “It's difficult going through bad spells and everything gets looked at. I was probably a brilliant captain before we started losing, then I'd have been a rubbish one. That's what happens and you need to accept it. It's the pressure of football and everybody gets caught up in emotions.

Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland with the match ball after his hat-trick against Ross County.Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland with the match ball after his hat-trick against Ross County.
Hearts captain Lawrence Shankland with the match ball after his hat-trick against Ross County.

“You have to put that to the side and concentrate on getting a performance. We got the performance and goals to go with it. That's what you can take confidence from and I'll help along the way if I keep scoring.”

If Hearts can finish third in the Premiership, it secures an important amount of cash via guaranteed European group-stage participation. “Of course – but not it terms of me. I don't get £3million,” laughed Shankland. “We want the experiences of being in Europe and playing in those big games. There were a couple of tough asks in the group stage [this season] and there were lessons for us, but the whole experience was enjoyable. We need to be determined to get that again.”