Jamie Maclaren wants to make Craig Levein eat his words and he is hoping that, if he can play a pivotal part in serving up some revenge, then he will boost his chances of feasting on some massive games for his country this summer.
The Australian striker, who joined Hibs on loan in January made the move to Scotland in the hope of forcing his way back into the international squad and, having been named in Bert van Marwijk’s squad for this month’s friendlies against Norway and Colombia, he is hoping some good high-profile performances and an eye-catching end to the season will result in him being included in the Socceroos squad for the World Cup, in Russia.
He already has five caps but, during a disappointing spell in Germany, he drifted out the squad, which is why he jumped at the chance to join Neil Lennon at Hibs, and with a few positive performances under his belt already, including the match-winning goal against Rangers and some influential play against both Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, he believes his decision to come to Leith has already been vindicated.
“It’s good to see my form has got some recognition from the new manager,” said the 24-year-old, who has developed a good understanding with fellow frontmen Florian Kamberi and Scott Allan. “I knew if I was playing regularly and my form was good, I’d have a chance.
“It was only a year ago that I was winning the Golden Boot in Australia so it’s nice to be back on the radar. Now I have just got to kick on. The World Cup is just around the corner. I just need to impress.”
Tonight’s derby affords him the platform to do just that. He had just joinedHibs when the sides last met and spectated from the dugout. This time he intends to be far more involved and wants to help his team-mates prove that their current superiority in the league standings extends to head to heads with the rivals as well.
“You try to brush it off,” he said of the psychological warfare that has gone on since the last meeting. “It’s just another game, although it will have added spice to it. But we know if we perform to the best of our ability, like against Kilmarnock in the first 15 minutes, like against Aberdeen at home, like against Rangers we can beat anyone at home.
“It’s business as usual. But they will be up for it and we need to be up for it. We need to finish off games. We were disappointed with the Kilmarnock game but we are full of confidence because we have not been beaten for a while. There’s no reason for us to fear anyone.
“I don’t want to be too controversial. I think [Hearts manager Craig Levein] might eat his own words if we go and get the three points.
“We want to catch Aberdeen, we want to catch Rangers. That’s our main goal, but our focus now is on Hearts.
“We are feeling good, we are full of confidence. There are no injuries, and there’s no reason for us to fear anyone. We are all looking forward to it.”
Maclaren has played in big games against big names in the past, going up against opponents such as Brazil’s Coutinho, Thiago Silva and David Luiz on international duty and it has given him a taste for the big stage.
“I was at the Confederations Cup last year and that’s obviously a smaller version of the World Cup.
“I played against Chile in Russia and prior to that we played Brazil and Saudi in pre-games as well. It gives you a taste, that’s what it’s all about. You want to play in the big games.