John Souttar knows what is expected of him. He also knows what it takes to keep the Hearts fans on side.
Wins are important but it is not always what Hearts do, it is the way they do it.
“It’s a bit surreal, we were talking about that after the derby,” said the 21-year-old Tynecastle defender. “My tackle got the biggest cheer of the day.
“It’s different in different leagues. I speak to my friend Gauldy [former Dundee United team-mate Ryan Gauld] in Portugal and there’s just silence when you tackle over there. You probably get a cheer for a passback there whereas here you get booed! It’s just the nature of the league and the fans, they just want high intensity football all the time.”
Like every other club still involved in the Scottish Cup, Hearts would also like to end the season with some silverware but know that, to maintain that interest, they have to overcome St Johnstone, who tested the home fans’ patience and the players’ mettle last weekend before succumbing to a 1-0 league defeat.
“You need to be mentally strong to play here,” said Souttar. “Everyone says that. But we need to give the fans something to cheer for as well. We can’t expect them to be lively when there is nothing for them to be lively for. So it’s partly our fault as well, You need to be a strong character.”
Having been a youngster on the books at Dundee United when they won the trophy in 2010, Souttar knows the impact a win can have. And in the 20th anniversary year of Hearts’ 1998 triumph, given the turmoil endured by everyone at the club in recent years and the fact that a return to Tynecastle, in front of a new main stand, is a sign of a brighter dawn, Souttar says the squad all know how fitting it would be to bring the cup back to Gorgie.
“Especially with what Hearts have been through in the last few years and the strides they have taken to move forward off the pitch and on it, if we could do it this year, it would keep the club going on the right track. It would be a great thing for the fans and the board to say ‘look, this is what we achieved’. We have come so far in such a short space of time.
“When I signed, I was told that by Ann [Budge] and Craig [Levein]. They made me aware of how unique this club is and how much the fans play a part in the whole thing. As players, we are due to give them back something for what they have given us. It would be brilliant if we could do it for them.
“We always said, even when we were struggling, that when we got back to Tynecastle it would be a lot different. We have proved that. But we need to start well on Saturday and perform better than we did last Saturday to get through.”
St Johnstone striker Chris Kane is determined that won’t happen, though. He had chances to seal the points for the Perth team last weekend but clattered one effort off the bar and was denied by Hearts keeper Jon McLaughlin as well and while that defeat stung, a win this afternoon could ease the pain.
Kane says his manager Tommy Wright has already made it clear that he is targeting another cup run, hoping to ultimately replicate the 2014 success and, like Hearts, they are aware that with Celtic winning the League Cup and well on course to retain the Premiership title, the Scottish Cup represents their only remaining chance of glory. “The only silverware is the Scottish Cup,” said Kane. “It would be great for us to win it, but we will take every game as it comes and focus on Hearts.”