'I wanted it' - Lawrence Shankland on why he jumped at the chance to become Hearts new number 9

Lawrence Shankland doesn’t mind that he is part of a team where there is constant pressure to deliver.

Hearts’ 26 year-old summer signing said it simply shows that he has arrived at a big club, with lofty ambitions.

The striker has assumed even greater responsibility by donning the No 9 shirt for a season in which the Tynecastle club is looking to complete back-to-back top three finishes for the first time in 18 years, while greedily eyeing up silverware and a prolonged presence in European competition.

But he was buoyed by a double in his Gorgie debut, last weekend against Stoke City, and, after a year being utilised as a right wing-back in Belgium, he is looking forward to working with a familiar face, back in Scottish football, and in a more recognisable role.

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“When the manager has knowledge of you and we’ve been successful before at a previous club - we did well at Dundee United and I did well, personally, and for the team - then that’s a positive.

“[Robbie Neilson] feels he knows how to play a team to get the best out of me and for me coming here that’s all you can ask for.

“If I get the opportunity to play then hopefully things will go well and I can back it up.”

Hosting Ross County this afternoon as the competitive action finally gets underway, Shankland will be hoping to add to last week’s double. Others, he says, will be expecting it.

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Hearts' Lawrence Shankland is looking ahead to the start of the new Premiership season. Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group

“But that is the kind of pressure you have to accept as a striker. I was glad to get the opportunity to become Hearts’ number No 9.

“When I heard the number was available, I wanted it. That is why I came here, to hopefully be successful.”

With on-loan Everton forward Ellis Simms gone, the spotlight turns to Shankland, but he says that is to be expected at the capital club, especially after finishing best of the rest last term.

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“Last season’s success brings pressure for this season and there is an expectation there for us to go and win these games and as Hearts players we know that is something we have to stand up to. We have had a good week training and we are all looking forward to getting out there. It will be a good crowd as well.”

And, while some have cast some aspersions when it comes to his scoring record in the top tier, having failed to hit double figures since the Championship-winning season under Neilson, in 2019/20, the Scotland forward has no doubts in his own ability or his team-mates’.

“There are a lot of creative players and good players here. Being at the top end of the table means this is a good team and Hearts have the tendency to have a lot of the ball, especially at home, and that suits me. So, there is pressure on me but that's a good thing. It is something I am looking forward to.

“It is the biggest club that I have played for in my career so there is pressure and you know what the crowd expects. But that comes from being successful before and that is probably a good thing and we need to thrive on that pressure and use it to our advantage.”

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