EXACTLY one week before this season’s Scottish Cup final, Livingston’s Lee Miller will turn 36. But as he sets out on a journey this afternoon that he hopes will lead him to the national stadium, the veteran forward says he has rarely felt younger.

Much of that is down to a punishing fitness regime that has him feeling physically better than ever, but it is also his role in mentoring and partnering on-loan Rangers prospect Ryan Hardie that is keeping Miller young at heart.

The former Hearts forward is hoping to be given the nod to spearhead the Livingston attack alongside Hardie as he travels to Tynecastle on Scottish Cup duty this afternoon, with Hardie extending his loan with Livi on Friday until the end of the season.

The news was a welcome boost to everyone at the club, but perhaps Miller most of all, who is loving feeding off the youthful exuberance of the 21-year-old.

“We all know what Ryan Hardie is about,” Miller said. “Ryan is great, he’s been an unbelievable striker for us. He has suited the club, and the club has suited him. It’s a perfect match.

“I love my partnership with Ryan. He’s scored a lot of goals working up front with me. I’ve loved every minute of playing with him and just being here. It’s been like a new lease of life for me.

“Everything that’s happened since I came to the club, getting promotion and then playing back on the Premiership, it’s been amazing.

“It’s been great to just pass on wee bits of knowledge to guys like Ryan. I’ve been in the game for a long time, but even I’m still learning.

“I’m doing some coaching now too, so I’m always learning new things and I can pass all of that on to the likes of Ryan and young Jack Hamilton who are coming through and making a name for themselves.”

On paper, today’s cup tie is tantalising enough between two sides who will expect to push for European qualification in the second half of the season. But there is a subplot too, as Hearts will be determined to exact some measure of revenge for the humiliation doled out to them the last time the sides met, when Gary Holt’s side ran out 5-0 winners.

Miller says though that Livingston will be fully prepared for the whirlwind they are set to walk into in the capital.

“Confidence is high,” he said. “We’ve got a good squad and we know what we’re good at, and it’s a cracking tie to go into.

“Tynecastle is a great place to go and play, so the boys are all looking forward to it.

“I don’t think any game is a banker between the Premiership ties now, it’s turning out to be a cracking league and I think this cup tie will be close too.

“We want to go as far as we can and I’m sure Hearts are the same, and I’m sure they will be out to get one over on us with the result the last time we met at the Toni Macaroni. So, it should be a tasty fixture.

“It’s a pride thing for Hearts after the last game. I played with Christophe Berra and I know he’ll be hurting from that result. He’ll be out to prove a lot of people wrong, but we can’t get involved in that.

“We’ll be prepared for them coming out gung-ho at Tynecastle, they always do, it’s such a difficult place to go and the fans will be on their side. But we’ll look to play our game and see what we can get.

“The draw there earlier this season gives us confidence that we can go there and compete.”

Livingston have certainly proven they can compete in the top flight this season. They may have been unfancied when they got to the Premiership by defeating Partick Thistle in the play-offs, but they have confounded the doubters to more than hold their own.

It stands to reason then that the plan for the second half of the season is simply more of the same.

“We want to keep upsetting people,” said Miller. “We’re always getting written off, but we just concentrate on our own game like we have done ever since I’ve been there and for a long time before that.

“We like to defy the odds and we’re thriving in the Premiership because we are all mucking in together. We reap the benefits of everyone being in this together and you can see that on the field.

“We were away to Portugal during the break for five days and that was fantastic to get away and mingle with the boys and get a bit of warm weather training in, which was great.

“It was brilliant to just all get away together. A few of the boys, that was their first trip away with a football team.

“It’s incredible really that we’ve been able to build that atmosphere we have without the boys all going away together before.

“It’s credit to David Martindale and the manager, Gary Holt. They have been very clever with the people they are bringing into the changing room. There are no bad eggs, everybody buys into the double and treble sessions that we’re doing, and you can only reap the benefits from that.”