JAMIE WALKER assumed cup finals would be an annual occurrence when he lined up for the League Cup final against St Mirren.
Little did he know that it would be seven years before he would next be heading to Hampden to battle for silverware.
So the Hearts playmaker has no intention of passing up the opportunity for another memorable cup run when the Jambos face Alloa for a place in the Betfred Cup quarter-final.
The Gorgie outfit have not won this competition since 1962 and a fresh-faced Walker, just 19 years of age at the time, was part of the side which came agonisingly close to smashing that hoodoo in 2013.
He played 64 minutes as Gary Locke’s Hearts succumbed to a galling 3-2 defeat against the Buddies, with goals from Isma Goncalves, Steven Thompson and Conor Newton doing the damage and rendering Ryan Stevenson’s brace a mere consolation.
It is a defeat that still haunts Walker – who will line up against Celtic in next month’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic – even if he convinced himself that he would have plenty of chances to make amends.
Walker recalled: “When that final came along, I was disappointed when we lost but you think you’ll get another opportunity – and that it’ll come quite quickly.
“I’ve had to wait more than seven years until the Scottish Cup final on December 20 to get another chance at a final.
“I’ve realised they don’t come around often!
“During my career, I haven’t had many regrets but losing that game against St Mirren is probably the biggest one that I have.
“Does it feel like one that got away? I’d say so. After St Mirren beat Celtic in the semi-final, we were probably favourites and we fancied ourselves.
“We actually started pretty well but it ended up being such a disappointing day.”
In a peculiar quirk, Hearts travel to Clackmannanshire just four days after taking Alloa apart at Tynecastle on Championship duty, with Michael Smith, Andy Halliday and Peter Haring scoring in a 3-0 triumph.
However, Walker is adamant that comfortable triumph will mean little in the modest surroundings of the Indodrill Stadium, emphasising that the Jambos must be at their best when they step on to the astroturf.
He continued: “It’ll be a tougher game than it was on Tuesday night.
“It’s going to be on the astroturf and they will be wanting to avenge Tuesday’s result and not lose three goals in 30 minutes like they did.
“We’ll need to work hard and move the ball well but, if we do that and create chances, I think we’ll score goals.
“We’ll need to be at it from the start and hopefully we can get an early goal and kick on.
“It’s a game we’re looking forward to. It’s a chance to get into the last eight and be one game away from Hampden again.”