GARY Locke remembers the days when the numbers for training were virtually unmanageable, with the first team squad split into two tiers on a daily basis. This season that would be impossible. Not just because of the paucity of players but because the Hearts manager has very little in the way of help.
With assistant Edgaras Jankauskas one of the summer departures and Darren Murray focusing primarily on the under-20s, it has left Locke light on coaching staff.
But he still feels humbled, and not just by the sacrifices made by fans and players in the past week. It has been the actions of footballing friends as well, some of whom have offered their coaching services for free in a bid to help him out.
Guys like Billy Brown, right, and John Robertson, below, both without management jobs at the moment, as well as former players, have put themselves forward, with Locke hoping to make an announcement early this week.
“Yeah, I have had a lot of people on the phone and I’m hoping to get something sorted out in the next couple of days. The number of people who have been in touch, people in the game who I have massive regard for, it has been very, very humbling. I’ve had words of support from people I will come face to face with during the course of the season. People have been on to say if there’s anything they can do for us… and I really, really appreciate that. People have offered their services for free and it shows how much the club means to people.”
The volunteers would initially help Locke through the pre-season period, with most willing to extend the offer into the new term, but he admits that long-term planning is difficult. “The administrators are talking to people who might buy the club. That would be great for us all but, looking at the past, Dunfermline, Portsmouth, getting out of administration doesn’t happen overnight. It does take a bit of time. Bryan [Jackson] and Trevor [Birch, of administrators BDO] have been fantastic, they have kept us up to date. They have made it clear it probably isn’t going to be done in two to three weeks, that it might be a drawn out process.”
The on-field task will be tougher without striker John Sutton, who has opted to move to Motherwell rather than accept a 50 per cent wage cut and see out the final year of his contract at Tynecastle.
Locke says he would hate to see the player vilified for his decision. “I was desperate for him to stay because we don’t have a lot of experienced players and he would have fitted the bill for me. I think it was a difficult decision for him, but, at the end of the day, John has a family and has a mortgage and everything else to pay. I have loved working with him. He is a nice guy as well, but he made the decision and it was a really difficult one for him. Certainly I hope the fans can see the bigger picture and thank him for his services to the club.”
Sutton may have left, but Locke has been lifted by the decision of the other remaining senior pros – Jamie MacDonald, Jamie Hamill and Ryan Stevenson – to accept wage cuts.