BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Hearts stalwart Neil Alexander knows what it takes to defeat Celtic on the way to winning a major trophy – and he is adamant the Jambos can do just that.
The 37-year-old lifted the League Cup on three occasions as a Rangers player, with his most dramatic triumph coming in the 2011 final against the Hoops when Nikica Jelavic’s extra-time strike secured a 2-1 victory.
Alexander also claimed the Scottish Cup on two occasions during his five-year stint at Ibrox.
And, having tasted plenty of Hampden glory in the course of his career, Alexander believes there is no reason the current Hearts side cannot go all the way this season.
The former Scotland stopper said: “I have very good memories from this competition. A cup final at Hampden against Celtic and a winner’s medal is always nice! Can this team with the cup? Definitely.
“We’ve got to believe and we definitely have the confidence that we can win a trophy. We started the season really well, maybe better than anybody expected us to.
“We’ve got a dressing room with ability and we’re fully confident that if everyone brings that ability to the pitch, we can do well this season.
“If we all had the attitude that we can’t compete with Celtic, what’s the point in turning up? We’d all just stay at home and put our feet up.
“To progress in any tournament and win silverware you really have to beat the best – and Celtic are best.”
Hearts have suffered comprehensive defeats in their last two cup encounters against Celtic, with the Hoops registering a 4-0 Scottish Cup win on their last trip to Gorgie and a 3-0 League Cup win in Glasgow last season.
However, Alexander believes the Jambos have taken confidence from a hard-fought 0-0 draw against the Premiership champions last month.
He continued: “On the back of a few disappointing results it was important to go there and try and get something out of the game. At that point we had conceded a few goals and it was good to get back to keeping clean sheets.
“We rode our luck a little bit but generally we defended really well from the strikers to the defence. That gave us confidence and we have shown that in the last four games.
“It is important for myself and the back four in general because it gives you the chance to score goals and win games.”
And, if the Jambos can rack up a shut-out, Alexander has no doubt Hearts have the players to do the damage at the other end.
He added: “We can cause them problems. Last season, we scored a lot of goals and caused a lot of problems.
“If we can defend well, we’ve always got a chance going forward – with the players that we do have – to nick a goal.
“Celtic have strengths and weaknesses like any team. We try and exploit their weaknesses and combat their strengths. It’s like any other game. We will give them a lot of respect, we’ll do our homework – and hopefully we’ll give them a good game.”