BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS new-boy Sean Clare has vowed to take inspiration from Dele Alli after drawing comparisons with the England superstar.
The Jambos completed a major transfer coup by snapping up the highly-rated 21-year-old, fighting off a swathe of suitors south of the border following his decision to reject the offer of an extended contract at Sheffield Wednesday.
The explosive midfielder gained rave reviews during a loan stint at Gillingham last term before returning to Hillsborough in January and playing five games for his parent club – finding the net against Aston Villa.
Clare’s languid look, direct running and desire to get into the box has prompted comparisons with Alli (Tottenham were even credited with an interest in the player) and, although not a tag he would give himself, it is a flattering one.
“I’ve had that comparison with Dele Alli – but I’ve never said it,” he smiled. “I think it’s potentially because we look fairly similar.
“I can see why people have said it because we have a similar running style and we both like to get involved in goals and assists.
“I probably dribble a lot more with the ball and am more direct than him but I definitely look at his games to take bits from it that I feel can improve my game.
“I’m very direct and like to dribble with it, a lot of taking players on but obviously not too much. The team’s more important. I think I can bring a very direct nature, goals and assists from set pieces or within the game.
“I’m someone who’s very athletic, energetic and really passionate to win games and trophies – like the fans are.”
Could that trophy be the Premiership title? He sees no reason why not.
Clare arrives at Hearts at a time when they have registered five consecutive league wins and boast a five-point lead over Celtic at the summit. As Hearts march on, the latest addition to the bandwagon has lofty aspirations.
“My honest opinion is any team in this league can really win it if they really knuckle down,” he said. “Some teams have a higher budget or this, that and the other but anything is possible. In football, once you get on the pitch it’s 11 v 11.
“Coming into a team that’s top of the league is a great feeling. The boys are buzzing, the staff are buzzing, training’s really fast and everyone’s working really hard to be better for the next game and keep winning.
“We’ll just have to see how far it takes us.”
Given Clare has attracted scouts from Spurs, Everton, Leicester and Wednesday were desperate to keep him at the club, his decision to join Hearts has raised plenty of eyebrows among snipers south of the border.
However, he has no doubt he has made the correct decision and has dismissed any notion that the favourable compensation terms afforded to Scottish clubs compared to their English neighbours was a factor.
“I can understand why some people have questioned the decision to come up here,” he added. “It is difficult to understand moves if you aren’t in my shoes. I’m sure if I had a conversation with people then they would understand it more.
“I expected that reaction and it doesn’t faze me. People don’t know exactly what is going on in my head.
“I don’t think my compensation was a lot regardless of the club. With the clubs I did speak to in England, that was never a problem, so I don’t think that hindered anything – and it didn’t sway my decision. I came to Hearts because I wanted to be here.
“I felt the management staff really wanted to make me better. That’s something I want. I believe in myself, but to have coaches that really believe in you is important and can kick you on 10 more levels than you ever thought you could get to.
“In the stage of my career, I feel that I can benefit from working hard to get in the team and, once I’m there, playing regular games in difficult situations. I’ll come out of that a much better player than signing somewhere else and maybe not playing.”