When he first broke into the Hearts team, the under-age Harry Cochrane was presented with cans of fizzy juice when he won man of the match.
Having turned 18 last month – and back in the first team after recovering from a succession of frustrating injuries this term – he was recently rewarded for his efforts with his first post-match bottle of champagne. He was denied the chance to quaff it by his mum but, if Hearts succeed in wrapping up their season with a Scottish Cup final win, there will be more than enough of the bubbly to go around.
“We need to concentrate on winning it first and then we will see what happens! I have had a few man-of-the-match bottles but my mum has stolen them all. She says she doesn’t know where they are. But she does...” says Cochrane
“Last year I think I got cans of Irn-Bru. I got my first champagne a few weeks ago but my mum has drunk that one already!”
If they win at Hampden, his mum won’t be present when the champagne corks start popping in the Hearts dressing room and, revealing that the kids who have come through the ranks at the Gorgie club have no fear of the team on the brink of a treble treble, Cochrane has already allowed himself to dream of the victory. And the goal he has imagined himself scoring.
“Left foot, bottom corner! But I thought about it before the semi and it ended up in the stand!
“I drive home myself sometimes and when I’m sat in the car I might be thinking about scoring the winner. That would be amazing. John Rankin [reserve team coach] has told me it took him until he was 30 to play in a cup final. So to get the chance this early, I would love it.
“When you play Celtic you need to show no fear. They are the best team in the league, they have won it, but you need to play with no fear. That gives you the confidence to feel free when you are playing and they are good enough to know that if a team has fear they can take advantage of that.
“They have done that this season. So, in the two games coming up we need to play with no fear,” said the teenager, who recently graduated to the first-team dressing room courtesy of a 30th first-team appearance but still cleans the boots of captain Christophe Berra, pictured. The league game this afternoon is as close to meaningless as these head-to-heads manage, with Premiership matters sewn up and all minds drifting to next week’s Hampden showdown and the chance to win a trophy.
That is where Hearts have the opportunity to claim silverware for the first time since winning the Championship in 2015, and their first major cup since 2012.
For Celtic it is the chance to wrap up a third year of domestic dominance, with their ninth successive trophy.
But while he is aware of the threat Neil Lennon’s team pose, Cochrane – who has been the vicitm of some first-team pranks since moving dressing rooms, but is ready to show his steely side with some creative revenge, which he says may include a trip to a pet shop – says he does not feel daunted by Hearts’ cup final foes. “That’s the mentality at Hearts, where coming up through the youth ranks we have always been told not to worry, to go out and try to play our best and if we get the win that’s a bonus.
“Obviously it’s different at first-team level. You need to win games. But being a young player I don’t feel much pressure in games.
“Maybe now that I’m 18 people maybe expect more but when I first came through I just played with a lot of freedom and that’s why I did well last season.”
It was his opening goal and inspirational display that kick-started Hearts in December 2017, as the Gorgie side went on to better Celtic 4-0 and end their historic 69-game unbeaten domestic run.
Lauded for the way he held his own against Parkhead skipper Scott Brown that day, he admits he struggled the next time the teams met. Going off injured in the 38th minute after he was clattered by Brown, he says it was actually the performance of another Celtic midfielder that left him feeling bruised.
“So, my toughest game was against Eboue Kouassi. I only lasted 30 minutes in that game before I was sent to the hospital but I just couldn’t get near him that night. I don’t know why that was, I just couldn’t get near him and that was a big lesson. It shows you where you need to get to.”
At Hampden he needs to put that education into practice and provide the impetus yet again.
“I would say that’s the most important thing. You saw Rangers do it last weekend – they went out and had no fear. So, we need to start the game really well. You’ve seen this season that when we start games well we usually get the result. Hopefully we can do the same in those two games.”
Cochrane is willing to be more patient, however, when it comes to seeking revenge on the dressing room wits, who have kept him on his toes and necessitated some underwear shopping.
“I found my boxers in the sink the first week and then the next week I got two holes cut in them. Nothing has happened this week, so far… Maybe there will be a hole in my cup final suit. Although, the suits aren’t great to be fair!
“John Souttar was to blame for the first incident, Michael Smith the second. But Jon Daly [first team coach] told me to bide my time. He told me something about crickets at Dundee United so there could be a trip to the pet shop soon…”