Jim Jefferies sets Hearts target of winning 'major trophy'
The Hearts manager has no time for either those who talk the tournament down or the managers who field supposedly weakened teams. But that the competition has for some years now failed to offer a pathway to the Uefa Cup - or Europa League, as it is now known - is a familiar lament.
"Why not?" he replied when asked whether a European place should be another incentive for those teams competing for what is generally thought to be Scotland's third, and least prestigious, major honour.
Jefferies knows just how hard it is to win the tournament having been a losing finalist on two occasions as a manager - once with Hearts, once with Kilmarnock. Indeed, he was handed the chance to reach a third final last season in just his second game after his return to Tynecastle but St Mirren claimed a 1-0 victory in the semi-final at Fir Park.
No-one could have doubted his desire to reach the final that night, just as they cannot question his willingness to see off Elgin City this evening, the first step on the road to Hampden.
"There's a championship, a Scottish Cup and a CIS Cup to play for at the start of every season," he said. "It's a major trophy and one we will be trying to win, just as we would do if it was the Scottish Cup. And it would be nice for me personally. I have got the Scottish Cup and been to two League Cup finals. If someone's kind to me I might make it third time lucky (in the League Cup]."
Jefferies' last appearance in the final with Hearts was in 1996, when the Tynecastle side lost a rip-roaring final to Rangers by the odd goal in seven. He is keen to take Hearts back to another final and believes the Tynecastle side deserve to be considered as potential winners.
"You have to get breaks along the way, not just in terms of the right draws, but also in terms of maybe one or two others meeting each other," he said.
"If that happens then you have to take advantage. Hearts should always be considered in the frame to win it. I watch Rangers and Celtic. They don't play weakened sides. They want silverware as badly as everyone else."
Jefferies is considering making changes and might be forced into it due to doubts over Marius Zaliukas and Darren Barr. He also wants to make space for Ryan Stevenson and Eggert Jonsson in the side, with this pair having been suspended from Hearts' opening two league fixtures. He is especially keen to see Stevenson begin his season in earnest. "Stevenson was excellent in pre-season, possibly the pick of the players for us," he said.
"It does not matter what team I pick.It's a good opportunity for us and I expect any side I put out to win us the game," he added.
Jefferies is, however, offering maximum respect to the visitors, who have lost four out of five competitive games this season. "I have never been involved in a competitive game with them before," said Jefferies. "We have had them watched a couple of times. We have to be professional. It's their big day, no-one gives them a chance. If we slacken off, give them hope, then suddenly you are under the cosh. But we are looking to do a thoroughly professional job, with no complacency."
A win would maintain Hearts' solid start to the season, with goals at long last a feature of their game. David Templeton, who scored in his side's 4-0 victory at Hamilton on Saturday, feels Jefferies deserves credit. "Every time you get the ball he wants you to attack the full-back - for wingers it's brilliant," said the 21 year-old.
But Jefferies is not entirely satisfied. "We could be sitting on six points," he said. "Performance-wise we have made a good start. We are just a bit unfortunate not to have full points."