GIVEN the confusion which surrounds Tynecastle at present, it is remarkable how calm Gary Locke has remained.
There is financial turmoil behind the scenes, with club owner Vladimir Romanov and director Sergejus Fedotovas having resigned from Ubig, Hearts’ parent company, and the club is managerless following last week’s departure of John McGlynn.
Locke, the interim boss, along with youth coach Darren Murray, has taken up the reins without knowing how long he will be in command for. So far it has been two games – the defeat by Motherwell last weekend, and Tuesday night’s win over St Johnstone – and when he spoke yesterday he was unsure of whether he would still be in his present position when Hearts travel to Easter Road on Sunday.
Others would be driven to despair by such uncertainty, but as a player Locke had a sanguine approach which ensured he rarely let his head go down, and as a coach he is demonstrating the same coolness. If ever a hurricane were to descend upon Tynecastle, you get the impression that he would be out in the centre circle, wry grin on his face, standing tall and embracing the chaos.
“I have no idea whether I will be in charge for the derby,” Locke said. “Nothing has happened as far as I know, and at the moment we’re just taking things as we have done all week and a bit.
“Myself and Darren are in charge at the moment, and if anything happens then I’m sure the club will let everybody know. I am preparing them at the moment and if anything happens then great. If not, then it’s business as usual.
“The situation we’re in, it will only take hard work and endeavour to get ourselves out of that. It was a pleasing performance against St Johnstone and hopefully we can take that type of performance into the derby.”
Hearts are thought to have drawn up a shortlist of four for the managerial vacancy – former assistant Peter Houston, ex-manager John Robertson, Derek McInnes and another unnamed applicant.
Having supported the club all his life, Locke would love to take charge for a longer period, but he appears able to put personal ambition aside, and concentrate instead on whatever is best for Hearts.
“It would be great,” he said when asked how he would feel if he were still manager for the derby. “It would be a fantastic feeling, but I’m not looking too far ahead.
“I think the club have been talking to people, so we’ll wait to see what happens over the next 48 hours. If I’m in charge then I’ll prepare the team like I have for the other two games in charge. If not, then hopefully we can still go to Easter Road and get the three points.”
Accepting that a change of manager just before the derby would be difficult, he continued: “But the players are professional and we have a great squad of boys who will quickly take things on board if a new man comes in. It’s not my decision: it’s a decision for the board.
“As I say, we’re taking every day as it comes. We’re in charge at the moment and remaining upbeat. Results always help that, and the dressing room was great after the St Johnstone game.”
If Hearts can win again on Sunday, Locke is sure it will be the perfect preparation for their next match, the League Cup final against St Mirren a week later at Hampden Park.
He knows his squad are sure to be regaled by the Hibs support with songs about Hearts’ supposedly imminent financial collapse, but he does not see that having any detrimental effect upon them.
“I don’t think it will matter at all. It’s normal that when you go to Easter Road you get a fair bit of stick, certainly in my time as a Hearts player. It’s good-natured: Hearts fans would be exactly the same if Hibs were in the position we are. As long as the banter is used in the right way, it’s all right.
“Hibs get plenty of stick when they come to Tynecastle, we are the same when we go to their place, but it’s all good-natured. It’s a game everyone wants to be involved in and they are fantastic occasions, having been a player and a coach in them. Going down there the week before a cup final will be great for us, but the main thing is that we put in a performance similar to Tuesday night and try to get a victory.”