Lawrence Shankland's scoring rate depicts him as the most prolific top-flight Hearts striker this century
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Shankland is adored by the Hearts support just a few months into his career at Tynecastle Park. When you ripple netting as often as him, fans tend to get quite misty-eyed. Two goals in the New Year Edinburgh Derby win against Hibs took him to 18 in 28 competitive appearances since arriving from the Belgian club Beerschot in July. That amounts to one goal every 1.55 games.
For comparison, Kyle Lafferty scored 19 times in 41 Hearts outings during 2017/18 – one goal every 2.16 matches. John Robertson’s 20-goal haul from 1991/92 is the record Shankland is hoping to beat come May. The Tynecastle legend scored 20 in 51 appearances that season – a ratio of one goal every 2.55 games. Genero Zeefuik’s 12 goals in 15 games in 2015 beats everyone, but those came in the Championship.
It is clear, then, that Hearts have a serious penalty-box predator in the 27-year-old nicknamed “Shanks”. With exactly half of their league campaign still to be played, plus Scottish Cup ties, it is seems only a matter of time until he breaks Robertson’s record after more than 30 years.
“I was four away from it before the Hibs game so I'll just keep playing and hope the goals keep going in. It's close now and I hope I do get there. I'll have hit a really bad bit of form if I don't,” smiled Shankland. “It's going on in the background and people are taking notice but I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.
“I know how big a player he [Robertson] was for the club and how well thought of he is around the place. If I manage to do it, then it will be good for me.”
Many younger Tynecastle natives won’t know who Dave Clark Five were, yet their tune is blared out around the stadium whenever Shankland scores. Fans quickly join in with: “We’ve got….Lawrence Shankland.”
“It's a great feeling and shows you're doing well. Not many fans will sing your name when you're going through a bad time,” said the striker. “The fans have taken to me since I came here so hopefully I can keep scoring goals and keep them onside. We are going well at the minute and it's always easy to get support when it's like that. Hopefully we can keep that up.
“Derbies are big games and that's part of the reason you come to these clubs. To play in them and get goals is great. I'm feeling good. When the goals are going in it's always a nice feeling. The team are doing well with some decent performances. We can still be better but it's been a good return.”
Extra responsibility was bestowed upon Shankland when he was named Hearts captain for the rest of the season following Craig Gordon’s injury. He thrived on it against Hibs. “It's obviously a wee bit more nervous because you are leading the team out. After you do the coin toss it's over and you play your normal game. It helps when you get an early goal. Cammy [Devlin] did brilliantly, Gino [Josh Ginnelly] got the shot away and I was alive in the box to poke one away. It was a good start and gave us a bit of momentum.”