Having almost been lost to the professional game at one stage, it is little wonder that Lawrence Shankland wants to make hay while the sun is shining. As it certainly is now on the newly crowned PFA Scotland Premiership Player of the Year.

That’s not to say that he isn’t happy to be at Hearts. Or that he wouldn’t be fine with remaining at Tynecastle next season too, if that is what is best for his career. Shankland has a humility about him and a gratitude for his current station that was perhaps enhanced during his well-documented dalliance with the dole queue.

But the hunger that ultimately brought him to where he is today is still driving him on to test himself at the highest level he possibly can. He feels he owes himself that much, and he acknowledges a responsibility – now, as he is, aged 28 - to make sure his next contract is one that feathers his nest for quite some time.

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So, while respectful of his employers, Shankland admits that there will soon be a decision to make over his future. His contract in Gorgie expires next summer, and with 28 goals to his name already this season, his stock is the highest it has ever been.

Might the coming weeks be the right time then for both player and club to agree to a conscious uncoupling?

“I probably couldn’t tell you the answer to that to be honest,” Shankland said.

“I am coming to a point in my contract with Hearts going into my last year where conversations will be had, there is no point in denying that. We will need to see what comes of those conversations.

“I have still got ambitions to get to a level. In football you always find your level. Then you get to a level and say, ‘Right, I wasn’t good enough there’. I don’t feel like I have got to that level that I am not good enough.

“It would be nice to kick on, see how far I can go in the game, try and play at a higher level than this. We will see what it brings. But I would never be disrespectful to what I have got at Hearts.

“The club have been great for me since I have gone there and have given me a real platform to perform at a high level with a top Scottish club. I really enjoy it there. If I am there for the next season, I am more than happy.”

That being said, he agrees that seeing out his career without taking that gamble on the next leap may leave him with nagging regrets when, one day, it is all over.

“You want to push on,” he said.

“Can I get somewhere where I say, ‘Right, that wasn’t good enough’? I don’t feel I have experienced that yet. You could finish your career and have regrets and say, ‘I wish I had tried that and seen if I could play there’. If you get the chance you try and go and do it.”

Might that mean a move south of the border, then?

“I don’t know,” he said.

“There are loads of leagues all over Europe. I have been abroad before. I will see. I will go abroad again.

“But, as I say, I am still under contract at Hearts, and I would never disrespect that position.”

As high as his stock is at the moment, a starring role for Scotland at the European Championships might take the decision out of the hands of both player and club.

“You never know,” he said.

“If I nick a goal there everything changes. But we will go and look forward to that.”

While dialogue over a possible extension of his current Hearts deal was placed on hold following the closure of the January transfer window, conversations have been ongoing between Shankland and his manager, Steven Naismith, who himself understands the lure for any player to go and test themselves at a higher level, such as in the English leagues.

“He does,” Shankland said.

“We have had really open conversations about it, Naisy, myself and the club as a whole. We all understand the situation.

“They want me to progress in my career as well and do really well. The main thing is everybody is on the same page. We will see what the summer brings.”

This may all make for depressing reading for those of a maroon persuasion, but Shankland’s departure from Tynecastle is not yet a fait accompli.

READ MORE: Hearts boss outlines transfer plans & why they must maintain standards

Might there still be hope, however faint, that the club captain decides to commit his long-term future to the Jambos, and strive to become a Hearts legend?

“Yep,” he said, “That is another option.

“I have got a duty and a responsibility to set myself up as well and I feel like I owe that to myself with how hard I have worked in my career. I will look to do that as well.

“If that is at Hearts then so be it, I will be happy.”