GARY LOCKE declared himself ready for the task of galvanising Hearts as he and Darren Murray prepared to take charge against Motherwell this afternoon.
The 37-year-old coach stressed he will relish the added responsibility following manager John McGlynn’s exit and wants supporters to raise the roof at Tynecastle today.
Hearts named Locke and Murray as interim managers on Thursday with a remit to improve results after the club slipped to second bottom of the Scottish Premier League. Locke said he is comfortable taking control, having captained Hearts as a player and is eager to work with Murray, who is officially player development manager at Riccarton.
“I’ve taken the reserve team at Kilmarnock, I’ve taken a lot of the teams here in closed-door games and I’ve been heavily involved with the first team. I’m certainly not going to change anything I’ve been doing,” Locke told the Evening News. “It is a bit different now because I’m in charge but it’s a responsibility that I relish. I was captain most of the time when I played so I’m quite happy taking responsibility.
“I’ve certainly not just decided now that I’m going to start talking to the players. Over the three years I’ve been here I’ve always done that. Paulo Sergio let me have a big say in what happened. Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown were a wee bit more experienced than me at that time so I took a back seat. The manager (McGlynn) let me have a say this season, so it’s not something that’s new to me.
“Everybody knows I’ve been a Hearts supporter for many years and I’ve seen the club in a lot worse positions than this. I remember them playing in the First Division with a team that got promotion one season and then went down the next.
“I know it can be difficult being the manager at Tynecastle. The fans this season have been nothing short of amazing. The way they’ve backed the club and invested money is magnificent. We know that we’ve let them down. We’re second bottom of the league and that’s a position I feel we shouldn’t be in with the players that are here. All we can do is get the players focused again and add some confidence.
“I don’t think this chance has come too early for me. It’s one game, that’s how I’m looking at it. We’re trying to get the team playing as well as we can. The fans have backed the team all season so I would just ask that they do the same today. Get right behind the boys and hopefully we can give them a win.”
Asked whether he would deviate from McGlynn’s favoured 4-3-3 formation and deploy two central strikers, Locke replied: “Nowadays, if you look at all the top teams in the world, very few play with two out-and-out strikers. The best team in the world don’t play with any. I think people look too much into the formation at times.
“We played a lot of games this season with one striker but two players in the wider positions who were attackers. You can play whatever system you like but, at the end of the day, it’s results that matter. If you aren’t winning games, that’s when people will criticise you. That’s what’s happened.
“We set the team out to win games under John. We never set out a Hearts team to defend. We wanted them to go forward, be positive and get the ball down and play. In a lot games this season we’ve played fantastic stuff.
“The reasons results haven’t been as good as we wanted is because the club is in a transitional period and we’ve lost a lot of great players. Look at the squad that played in the cup final last year. Only two of them who are left are fit, plus the two who were on the bench. It’s a massive change in such a short space of time. Obviously results are going to be affected.”
Striker Michael Ngoo is a slight injury doubt for this afternoon but Locke is confident he will play. “Michael had a slight knock from the game on Wednesday. He trained yesterday. I think he’s got a good chance of playing. He’s a big lump of a lad so we need to make sure he’s right because this is a game we need to win and he’s a big player for us.”