Lawrence Shankland to remain Hearts captain for the rest of the season
Although Craig Halkett has donned the armband in the past and other senior players like Robert Snodgrass and Andy Halliday hold more experience, Tynecastle management have placed their faith in their top goalscorer. Shankland was skipper and scored a penalty in Wednesday night’s 3-2 win at St Johnstone as Hearts ended a 12-year wait for a league victory in Perth.
“Lawrence is a leader within the group,” said manager Robbie Neilson. “I think there is an opportunity with him to develop further. Craig Gordon will remain the club captain but we need an on-field captain, day-to-day and on the pitch and that will be Lawrence. I spoke to a few of the senior players and he was the main candidate for us.
“I’m really pleased with him. I think you could see it improving his game with that leadership. The main thing for me is there is development there within him. I can see him becoming a really good on-pitch captain. He will stay as the captain [when Halkett is back from injury]. He's got the attributes, he'll play every week, top goalscorer. He's got a bit about him as well.”
Gordon will visit the Hearts squad on New Year’s Day prior to Monday’s Edinburgh derby against Hibs at Tynecastle. The goalkeeper is out until next season having spent Christmas in hospital undergoing surgery to repair a broken fibula and tibia sustained at Dundee United on Saturday.
“It’s just to see him, get him with us,” said Neilson. “Last time the boys saw him was him being stretchered off. Just to get him back about the group, talking. The boys can have a chat with him which is very important.
“Craig is already talking about how long it is until the first game of the season, where he is going to be at that point. There is a long way to go, we just need to support the big man. The first step is the operation, the next is going home to his family, next step is getting up on his feet, walking about and taking the next step.”
Shankland’s penalty preceded goals from Alan Forrest and substitute Barrie McKay, but St Johnstone struck through Stevie May and Jamie Murphy to make for a nervous ending fo the visitors. “I used to have long hair the last time we won here,” joked Neilson. “It is always a difficult place to come, you know that. I was really pleased with the first-half performance. I thought we controlled the game, passed it really well and got into good areas. I felt in the second half we huffed and puffed.
“In the first half we passed with a real purpose going forward, aggressive. Second half we passed for the sake of passing at times and brought pressure onto ourselves which was the disappointing thing.”