Gary Locke last night confessed his appointment as manager of Hearts had come “as bit of a surprise” as he immediately set his sights on lifting the Scottish Communities League Cup in his first match in permanent charge of his boyhood team.
The 37-year-old was yesterday handed the role until the end of next season after a three-game spell as interim boss following the sacking of John McGlynn last month.
It had been widely believed that former Dundee United manager Peter Houston had been lined up to take the reins, with the appointment expected to take place in the wake of today’s final against St Mirren.
However, Hearts changed their minds and yesterday appointed Locke, who will this afternoon try to help the Gorgie side lift the League Cup for the first time in 51 years.
“It’s certainly come as a bit of a surprise,” Locke said. “But I’ve been happy with the way things have gone in the last couple of weeks and hopefully we can finish the week on the ultimate high by bringing the cup back to Tynecastle. John McGlynn played a huge part in getting us to the final and for me to lead the team out is a wee bit embarrassing. But it’s great, I’m delighted to get my future sorted out and I’m really looking forward to the cup final.”
Houston is understood to have been equally surprised by the news. A former Hearts coach, he had held talks with the club over the past two weeks and even agreed that his appointment would be better left until after the final.
It is believed he was informed that he would not be getting the job just minutes before Hearts went public with the news.
Director Sergejus Fedotovas told the club’s website: “We considered several people for the job and were close to making an appointment of what we believed to be the best of outside candidates but it was Gary Locke who scored more points among the board members.”
Whether the decision was influenced by the expected arrival in Scotland this weekend of Vladimir Romanov is unclear. Locke will be assisted by Edgaras Jankauskas and Darren Murray.
Meanwhile, a crowd of 45,000 is expected at Hampden today.