Sean Clare admits he is desperate put himself in the frame for Hearts’ Hampden trip as he strives to join the gallery of Gorgie greats.
The frontman says his gaze has been captured by images of the club’s famous cup winning teams dotted around Tynecastle’s new main stand.
Now Craig Levein’s crop have the chance to have their portraits added to the Jambos’ hall of fame if they can fight their way past Inverness in next month’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final and go on to lift the trophy.
But having only recently established himself in the Hearts line-up, former Gillingham striker Clare knows he may find himself out of the picture at the National Stadium on April 13 if he does not maintain the standard of his recent displays, starting with Saturday’s trip to Hamilton.
He said: “Every footballer plays to win stuff. That’s the motivation for us all. It’s in you to begin with but when you walk about the stadium here and see all the pictures of the cup winning teams of the past it’s really excites you further.
“We know we’ve got a great opportunity to join them up there and hopefully we can take it.
“Everyone wants to be part of the game at Hampden – but we’ve got to take it one game at a time. We’ve got important games in between then and now and performances will need to stay high if you want a chance of being in the team for Hampden. I’m motivated to do just that.”
Levein’s team also made it as far as the final four in the Betfred Cup earlier this season but suffered heartbreak as Ryan Christie inspired Celtic to victory at Murrayfield.
That defeat and a raft of injuries sparked a 10-game tailspin in which Hearts managed just one win.
But Clare – who has struck the winner in both of Hearts’ last two games against Dundee and Partick Thistle – says his side are stronger for having gone through that rough ride.
“Next month is a big opportunity for us,” said the 22-year-old. “On paper it’s a better chance for us to get through than last time in the Betfred Cup. But we know from playing Partick Thistle it will be a tough game.
“It will be difficult to get past Inverness but we also know this is our best chance of getting to a final.
“I wasn’t really part of the game at Murrayfield so of course I want to get a taste of a big semi-final.
“That game was disappointing for everyone. In the first half we contained them but in the second, I don’t think we showed ourselves in the best light.
“When you are playing a team like Celtic you can’t give them chances and we did that a couple of times.
“But that defeat has made us stronger over time. It took us a little while to bounce back as a team but I feel we’re a lot more resilient now, as you can see from the Dundee and Partick games this week.
“When we’ve been under pressure in the last few minutes we’ve held on and defended well. We’re in a good place as a team now.
“We tasted that defeat to Celtic but we don’t want that again.”
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