GARY Locke may find himself in what is uncharted territory for a Hearts manager but he at least finds himself supported by familiar faces.
With Billy Brown providing his services free of charge as assistant manager, Locke has now enlisted equally altruistic help from John Robertson.
The Tynecastle club’s all-time record league goalscorer was at their Riccarton training base yesterday, having made the long trek from his Highland home to provide what Locke hopes will be regular coaching sessions with his batch of youthful strikers.
In a season when Hearts will kick off on minus-15 points as a consequence of going into administration, getting the best out of rookie forwards David Smith (20), Billy King (19), Dale Carrick (19) and Callum Paterson (18) will be essential to any hope Locke has of preserving the club’s top-flight status.
He can think of no-one more suited to the task than Robertson, the man who scored 271 times in a Hearts jersey and also had a brief spell as head coach himself before the managerial merry-go-round of the Vladimir Romanov regime kicked into gear.
“Robbo is a legend at the club and when I was here previously as a coach under Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown, he came in and worked with the strikers then,” said Locke.
“In my eyes, there is nobody better. We haven’t got a lot of strikers at the club now, but the ones who are here will benefit hugely from his experience and knowledge.
“I’m just delighted that he has accepted my offer to come in and, like Billy, he is doing it for free. It’s a massive coup for me that someone of that calibre is willing to come in and do his bit.
“I’m hoping it’s not short term and that he can come in regularly, certainly once a week at least. It’s a difficult one because he’s not getting paid and is driving down from Inverness. But it shows the mark of the man that he is prepared to come so far to help myself and Heart of Midlothian.
“We have seen over the summer just what this club means to people, including its former players and, of course, the people still at the club – those who work behind the scenes and aren’t seen day to day. We are all working 24 hours a day to make sure the club gets back to where it should be and if we’ve got those type of people at the club, then we’ve got a chance.”
Hearts’ training session yesterday also involved former players Gary Naysmith and Christophe Berra, the Scottish international defenders both without clubs following their release by Aberdeen and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively.
“It has been great to see everyone rally round,” added Locke. “The ex-players are no different. They all want to do their bit as well. Having more experienced lads of the quality of Gary and Christophe on the training pitch will also help the younger players.”
Locke revealed he has also received precious advice on how to cope personally with the trials and tribulations of Hearts’ predicament from his mentor, Jim Jefferies. The two men will be in rival dug-outs tomorrow, when Hearts face Jefferies’ Dunfermline side at East End Park in a fund-raising match for both administration-hit clubs.
“I’m very close to the gaffer,” said Locke, “and one of the best bits of advice he has given me is that when I do get a bit of time to myself away from the club, to try and spend it wisely with the family and switch off a little bit.
“That’s been great and every opportunity I’ve had, I’ve tried to spend time with my wife Lynsey and our three kids. When you’ve got three of them jumping on your head, it’s a great way of switching off.
“It’s been a hectic summer with everything that has happened at the club, a difficult summer, but I can definitely see a lot of light at the end of the tunnel now. The good thing is we are back training now and being out there with the players every day is what I absolutely love doing.
“That’s also a great way of switching off from the other issues surrounding the club.”
He added: “Saturday at East End Park will be strange – I’ll need to stand between the dugouts to keep Jim and Billy apart. Seriously, it’s an occasion we are all looking forward to. The weather forecast is decent, so I’m hoping a lot of Hearts fans will travel over there, first and foremost to give their support to the team they love.
“But it’s a big thing for both teams. The gate is being split 50-50, so the more money that is raised, the better it will be for both clubs.”