MICHAEL Ngoo hopes to take his lingering Scottish Communities Cup final frustrations out on holders St Mirren when the relegation-threatened Paisley side visit Tynecastle today.
Danny Lennon’s men lifted their first major piece of silverware in 26 years as they came from a goal down to beat Hearts 3-2 in the Hampden final in March. That afternoon still rankles with the 20-year-old Liverpool striker who joined Hearts on-loan in January.
Hearts are hoping to fill Tynecastle by slashing all ticket prices to £5 and so, by yesterday, around 16,000 had snapped up tickets. Like Ngoo, the Hearts fans among them will be looking for a degree of revenge, which would prolong St Mirren’s attempt to scramble to safety – with bottom side Dundee not meeting Aberdeen until 24 hours later.
He said: “Everyone is up for it, everyone is ready to go. The cup final was unfortunate but Saturday is another chance to play them again and beat them. I think we have a good chance.”
Ngoo, who started his career at Southend, admits it could be “difficult” to extend his loan period at the club due to finances. The Edinburgh club are some £25 million in debt, with £15m of that owed to Ukio Bankas, who learned during the week that a Lithuanian court had ruled that bankruptcy proceedings should commence against them – sparking fresh fears that Hearts could be dragged into administration.
Ngoo is set to return to Anfield for pre-season training before he makes any decisions about the next step in his career.
“After pre-season with Liverpool we will see what happens,” he said. “As a young player, I need to keep working hard at things to make me a better player. I think I have got stronger as a player and my knowledge has got a bit better as well.
“I love Edinburgh. It is an experience any young player would ask for. It is not what I expected it to be. I expected everyone to be serious but everyone tries to help one another the best way we can and get the results.
“Not many players get to play in a cup final especially in their first loan spell, so that was fantastic, as was playing in front of the fans at Tynecastle.
“The negatives are being in the position we are in and the amount of injured players who could have boosted the squad and made us stronger. But I have had a great experience up here in Scotland and will take a lot out of it.”
St Mirren defender Marc McAusland, meanwhile, fully expects Hearts to be keen to partly atone for the defeat at Hampden but is confident the visitors can claim the point they need to finally ensure their SPL safety.
He said: “They will want a bit of revenge for the cup final. It’s always tough going to Tynecastle. They have big, strong players. They are a good team. If they turn up on the day, they will give us a right hard game.
“But, hopefully, if we play the way we know we can play, we can get the job done.”
Bottom side Dundee have enjoyed a resurgence under new boss John Brown in recent matches, allowing them to move to within eight points of Saints with three games to go.
The Paisley club have failed to pick up a win since their triumph at the national stadium, but McAusland hopes they can finally end the Dens Park side’s slim hopes of avoiding the drop.
He said: “We hoped to have done it before now but it hasn’t worked out that way. The sooner Saturday comes, the better. Hopefully, we can get it done then. Training has been quite relaxed this week and everybody is all right.
“We were disappointed not to get three points last Saturday but it’s done now so we just need to look forward to this game.”
Dundee manager Brown has this week attempted to crank up the pressure on Saints in his now familiar manner, but McAusland is not interested in mind games.
He said: “I don’t read about it. We just need to focus on ourselves and, hopefully, our performance can take care of itself and the outcome we want will be sorted.”
In an indication of how tight the league has been this season, a positive finish could yet see Saints secure their highest ever finish in the SPL. McAusland added: “If we win our next three games, we could push ourselves right back up there but our main objective is to stay in the SPL and we can make sure we do that come Saturday.”