ANY manager in charge of a team for the first time would not have opted for a match against opponents who had just beaten Celtic, but Gary Locke knows he has no choice in the matter.
And Locke, Hearts’ interim boss along with Darren Murray, has no choice when it comes to personnel either – his squad for today’s home game against Motherwell will be almost identical to the one which lost to St Mirren in midweek.
“It’ll be really tough,” the former Hearts captain said yesterday. “The reports from Motherwell’s game against Celtic was that they were magnificent, and I’ve got a lot of respect for Stuart McCall, who I played with down at Bradford. They’ve made a magnificent signing in James McFadden, so we know it’s going to be a very tough game.”
While aware that his largely inexperienced team could be up against it today, he expects them to put on a confident display in their first match since the departure of John McGlynn. “My sole aim is to get the team ready for Motherwell, hopefully get three points and put a smile back on peoples’ faces. We’ve lost a few influential characters, which hasn’t helped. And a few of the influential guys still here are injured or suspended – big Marius [Zaliukas] has been a big loss. We still have big characters and a lot of talented kids with confidence in their own ability. Hopefully they show that on the pitch between now and the end of the season.
“I’ve not got a magic wand. Over the course of the season we haven’t done enough in games to win them – that’s why we’re in the league position we’re in. It’s a case of just trying to get the players up for Saturday, get them motivated and organised, and hopefully they’ll put in a performance that merits wearing a Hearts jersey.
“Tomorrow will be great. I’ve walked out at Tynecastle many times in my playing career and as a coach. Tomorrow will be slightly different because we’re in charge of the team. I’m looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Motherwell manager Stuart McCall has told his out-of-contract players the quicker they can seal a top-six slot, the quicker he can deal them in for next season. Michael Higdon, Darren Randolph, Tom Hateley, Steven Saunders, Nicky Law, Chris Humphrey, Omar Daley, Robert McHugh, Simon Ramsden and James McFadden are out of contract in May. The manager said: “I’ve spoken to the agents and got a heads up. But until we get to the top six, we can’t look to offer deals because we don’t want to offer people contracts we can’t afford. It’s where we are with the finances of the game. ”
McCall is wary of a backlash from Hearts following McGlynn’s depature. He said: “I know John will be hurting. No-one could have given any more than he did. The side that won the Scottish Cup under Paulo Sergio was a different one that John got to work with.”