Hearts manager Gary Locke has accused the football authorities of punishing the “wrong people” after his young team were crushed 7-0 by Celtic in the Scottish Cup on Sunday.
Locke has been left with a squad made up mostly of teenagers after the club were hit with two separate transfer embargoes and a 15-point penalty for plunging into administration in the summer.
While conceding the Gorgie outfit needs to take its medicine for racking up £28.5 million of debt, Locke reckons the players and supporters are being unfairly punished for former owner Vladimir Romanov’s reckless mismanagement.
The naivety of the side was ruthlessly exposed by the Hoops at the weekend and Locke is concerned about how his players will react to the savage defeat.
He said: “You have to try to look after our young players in Scotland. I’m not making any excuses but we’re not getting any help and I’ve known all along that we need some experienced players to help these young guys.
“One of my worries is that, if we’re on the end of a couple of heavy defeats like that, it can only damage their confidence and sometimes it’s not ideal in their development either.
“The club has been mismanaged, there is no doubt about it. The most disappointing thing from my point of view is that it’s like they punish the wrong people sometimes, or the fans that are trying to keep this club afloat. They’re the people that deserve to see a stronger Hearts team on the pitch but, unfortunately, we’re not in a position to do that.
“We are where we are, we’re a young side. We’ve got 14 outfield players and the average age of the team is 19. Even with a really experienced side we would have been really up against it because Celtic played that well.”
Locke’s team are 12 points adrift of Kilmarnock at the bottom of the Premiership table and he must now try to raise his players’ spirits for a daunting trip to in-form Dundee United on Saturday. Locke added: “We just have to work hard again, we need to get this game out of our system.”