THE speculation which raged about his future, not least the possibility of him moving to Rangers, during the January transfer window did not unsettle Lawrence Shankland in the slightest.

The Hearts captain and Scotland striker has scored 11 times for club and country this year to take his tally for the 2023/24 campaign to 29 – far more than anyone else in his position has managed this term.

Shankland, who was yesterday confirmed as one of the four nominees for the PFA Scotland Premiership Player of the Year award, fully expects there to be more stories about him during the summer months as a result of his excellence up front during the past nine months.

However, the former Queen’s Park, Aberdeen, Ayr United, Dundee United and Beerschot forward will be quite content if, as proved to be the case at the start of the year, no concrete bids are tabled and he remains at Tynecastle for the remainder of his contract. 

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“It’s part of the game,” he said. “The transfer market’s there for everybody to get excited about and talk about and I just leave it at that. It’s just outside noise. It doesn’t affect me at all until someone comes knocking on my door and says, ‘This is the position you’re in’. Until that point I don’t take any interest in it.

“I suppose it’s flattering, it’s a bit of recognition that you’re doing your job and that’s all I see it as. Most of what there is is just talk. But we’ll see what happens, I’ve a year left on my contract at Hearts. We’ll see if there’s a decision to be made in the summer.”

The Herald: Shankland added: “There’s no guarantees in football that someone’s going to say ‘right we’re signing you’. It doesn’t work like that.

“I’m aware at the age I am that some clubs don’t want to sign older players because there’s no real sell-on value. So it’ll need to someone who would want to sign me for the here and now that would be signing me.

“There’s no guarantees in football that someone’s going to say ‘right we’re signing you’. It doesn’t work like that. But I’m aware at the age I am that some clubs don’t want to sign older players because there’s no real sell-on value.

“So it will need to be someone who would want to sign me for the here and now that would be signing me. If nothing happens, I’m more than comfortable with the position and the club are the same.”

Both Shankland and Hearts – who can secure third spot in the cinch Premiership table and a place in the Europa League play-off round this weekend – have enjoyed excellent seasons.

But their skipper is adamant they can do better individually and collectively next term by laying their hands on silverware.

The pain of the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers at Hampden earlier this month clearly still lingers a little. Steven Naismith’s men competed well with Philippe Clement’s charges throughout the 90 minutes but ended up on the receiving end of a 2-0 defeat. The forward, then, feels there is scope for improvement.  

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“The finances from the European campaign will help the club,” he said. “Guaranteed group stage football looks close and if we can get that done, that’ll help the club as a whole, maybe in attracting better players.

“I’m sure the club will have a plan in the way they want to move forward. For me personally, if I’m a part of that I will be happy. Everybody will be pulling in the same direction and looking to improve on what we’ve done this year.

“Of course, you want to win trophies, but it’s not as if Hearts win them all the time and we’ve just missed out over the past two years. It’s been a long time since there have been trophies at Hearts and we obviously found it difficult in the two semis.

“In the last one we had a lot of opportunities to do better in the final third and that probably cost us a goal and being in the game a bit more. There are obviously regrets there, but you need to move on.”

Playing for Hearts has enabled Shankland to establish himself in the Scotland set-up: he is guaranteed to be named in the national squad for the Euro 2024 finals in Germany this summer if he avoids picking up an injury in the final four Premiership matches of the season.

The Herald: “I have an opportunity to play for a good team in the top league and that has helped,” he said. “The recognition comes with that, you get a bit more exposure playing for a big club.

“I do feel my game has improved, but I think that is more getting older, maturing, understanding the game. I think maybe my time in Belgium helped as well, helped me recognise what you want off a striker.

"I am in a position now where if Hearts don't play well and Hearts get beat, it's my fault. That is the pressure that comes with and that is the other side of it. When you score big goals that is the pressure it brings. You need to enjoy that and it is a good position to be in."

Shankland does certainly not feel overawed about rubbing shoulders with Premier League players like Ryan Christie of Bournemouth, Billy Gilmour of Brighton, John McGinn of Aston Villa, Scott McTominay of Manchester United or Andy Robertson of Liverpool and is hopeful he can prove his worth in the Group A games against Germany, Switzerland and Hungary.  

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“It’s a good group to be involved in,” he said. “Obviously the last time (in the friendlies with the Netherlands and Northern Ireland last month) I got a bit more game time than I had previously and that gives you an opportunity to catch the eye. That’s how I saw it, to make sure I’m involved in the competition for places.

“Scoring in Georgia helps you earn your stripes a wee bit. It had been a while since my last goal and you want to play a part in the campaign. So that goal was good for me. But I always feel a part of it when I join up.

“It’s the same as any other business, there is a pecking order to things. But it’s a pleasure to play with guys who are playing at that level. They do everything they can to help you. There’s a serious gap in the level between where they play and where we play but you just go in and do our best. The boys do their best to help you.”