Steven MacLean keen to make Hearts a top-four club – and thrive on striker rivalry
Hearts star Steven MacLean wants a minimum top-four finish next season and is determined to fight off incoming strikers to play his part.
Running Celtic close in the Scottish Cup final has increased the Edinburgh club’s hunger for success in both league and cups, according to MacLean.
The 36-year-old told the Evening News that Hearts must improve on this season’s sixth-place Premiership finish by breaking into the top four next year.
With manager Craig Levein ready to recruit two new strikers – Steven Naismith’s permanent deal should be finalised imminently – MacLean insisted he won’t relinquish his place at Tynecastle Park.
He led the forward line against Celtic at Hampden and is eager to prove he still has a role regardless of who arrives this summer. “I’ve had that throughout my whole career. Hopefully I proved at Hampden that I can still do something and help the squad,” said MacLean.
“Whatever the manager wants from me, I’ll do it. We will see what happens in the summer. We’ll have a chat, see what he wants me to do and go from there. I think we always knew we were good enough to be up there matching Celtic and we did that in the final. We need to start doing it over the course of the whole season.
“We need to make sure we finish in the top three or top four next season.
“It’s okay doing it in one-off occasions but we have to do it consistently, beat the lesser teams and make sure we have a good league season. We also want good cup runs as well.”
Hearts reached the Betfred Cup semi-final and the Scottish Cup final this season. They lost 2-1 to Celtic in Saturday’s season-ending showpiece but left Glasgow proud of their performance. MacLean was one of the successes.
“I was delighted to start. I found out on Friday and I was just determined to give everything I’ve got,” he said.
“The manager spoke to me and told me not to leave anything behind when I came off the pitch. I thought I did that and worked hard for the team. I thought our shape was really good. I did what the manager and coaching staff wanted me to do.
“We contained Celtic and restricted them to very little. We pressed them well at times and then we sat off and let them have it in good areas.”
MacLean felt his side were in control leading 1-0 through Ryan Edwards’ goal before Odsonne Edouard scored twice. The Frenchman’s first was a disputed penalty and his second came as a result of slack Hearts defending.
“We had them, but the goals kill us. They aren’t great goals,” admitted MacLean. “We had them right where we wanted them and that’s the most disappointing thing. It was a great opportunity that we’ve missed and that’s why we feel so gutted.
“A couple of individuals were fantastic. We were gutted but, if we’re going to take positives, then certain individuals were excellent in the game. Fair play to them.”