Hearts target 2021 Scottish Cup – days after losing 2019/20 final

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson admits he is already targeting glory in this season’s Scottish Cup, and is adamant his team will be better off for the experience of losing the 2019/20 final to Celtic four days ago.

The Gorgie side will attempt to show that they are over the bitter disappointment of Sunday’s heartbreaking shoot-out defeat by beating Ayr United in Championship duty on Boxing Day.

However, Neilson admits the clash with the Bhoys, which finished 3-3 following 120 minutes of football, has whetted their appetite for a return to the national stadium.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson addresses the media | Hearts news
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson addresses the media | Hearts news

And after going toe-to-toe with the quadruple treble winners Neilson insists silverware is a realistic target.

Neilson, who welcomed his players back to training yesterday following two days off, said: “We had a wee chat and spoke about taking what we did on Sunday, how well we did, how close we got and the belief that we can and should be there more regularly. 

“There are a lot of positives, yes there are disappointments but we’ve got to use that to make sure we get ourselves back. 

“We’ve got 20 games to go in the league, we want to win them all and then we’ve got four Scottish Cup games to take us back to a final. There’s a belief now we can get there.

“When you get to quarter-finals or semi-finals and get knocked out, you never really believe you can get there and win it. 

“But we now have that belief that we can not just get there but almost go all the way. 

“The players almost did enough to win it and the next step for us is to make sure we do enough to win it.

“The next time we get a final we’ll be more relaxed and know what is going to happen.”

Neilson, however, admits the Honest Men will have their full focus on Saturday as Hearts look to strengthen their lead at the second tier summit

He added: “The players understand right from day one that the objective is to win the league. 

“Yes we want to win cups but the club has to get back to the top flight. Yes the game on Sunday was very important but the next one is even more important for us.”

Neilson also claimed that he was never worried about a potential retrospective ban for Steven Naismith after the striker appeared to stand on Celtic captain Scott Brown during a first half flash point.

The Scottish FA have decided not to take any further action.

He added: “To be honest, I did not even know it was happening. 

“During the game I saw the tackle and didn’t think there was that much in it. 

“I haven’t watched it on TV, so I’m just happy to have him back.”