Ever since he stepped off the subs’ bench to score a late winner at Tynecastle on his Celtic debut three years ago, Scott Sinclair has been a persistent thorn in Hearts’ side.
The winger has scored nine times in as many starting appearances against the Gorgie men and admits he has his sights firmly fixed on adding to his personal tally as the Scottish champions bid to complete a “treble treble” at Hampden tomorrow.
“It started off for me with Celtic with that winner against Hearts on my debut,” said Sinclair. “My ratio of goals against them is good – I’ve scored more against them than any other team. It would be nice to get another one on Saturday and make sure we win.
“They are a good side, very physical and a tough team to play. But playing them in a cup final is very different to playing them in a league game. We just need to make sure we turn up and play our game.
“When I signed I never even thought of double trebles and treble trebles. Now we are going into the last game of this season with an expectancy to get the job done.
“We’ve been there, we’ve done that, so we know the experience when we are going into it. Everyone is expecting us to win but it’s going to be a very tough game. No matter if it’s a cup game or a league game, that is the pressure we have of playing for Celtic. Once we go into this game, if we play the way we have been playing we have to make sure we do win.
“Everyone in the squad has got that winning mentality, to go into every game and keep winning and to keep on going over more than 50 games. People ask about fatigue but in the last few years we have been great and we have dealt with it unbelievably.
“We just keep pushing. We don’t let fatigue or complacency settle in. Even if you are a little tired, you do one more run or you do that extra yard. For everyone in the squad, that’s the way we think.”
Sinclair has been linked with a return to English football this summer but Celtic have triggered an option to extend his contract until the summer of 2020.
“This has been the best part of my career,” added the 30-year-old. “I’ve enjoyed every moment of it and obviously I’ve got another year. I’m happy here and I’m just happy to be here for another year.
“Obviously that was out of my control – it was the club’s decision and they’ve taken the year and I’m happy that they’ve taken it.
“It’s too soon for me to think about what happens next in my career. I just want to concentrate on Saturday. Get the job done, then worry about those things afterwards.”
Sinclair is full of praise for the work done by Neil Lennon as interim manager since the departure of Brendan Rodgers, for so long a personal mentor to the former Aston Villa and Swansea player, in February.
“It was a shock for the whole squad when Brendan went,” added Sinclair. “No-one saw it happening. We came into training one day and he left.
“It was quite difficult for us as players but at the same time, we got on with it. You move on. That’s exactly what we have done.
“We are the players, we are the ones who go out and do the business. But at the same time, the manager comes with his formation and tactics.
“It was a tough time for Lenny to come in, with all the uncertainty among the players about what was going on.
“He is so passionate for this club. You can see he has the same winning mentality as all the players. He is great in training, he never lets you slack off, and that’s what you want from a manager.
“At times, it is hard for Lenny because everyone is comparing him to Brendan. That’s very unfair for people to do that.
“He has come in with his own ways and he is a totally different manager to Brendan. They are their own men and have different styles of playing. He has done a great job, he’s got us to another cup final and eight in a row.”