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Locke will work with Ann Budge despite axe threat

Hearts boss Gary Locke insists he would be happy to work with prospective Hearts owner Ann Budge. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Hearts boss Gary Locke insists he would be happy to work with prospective Hearts owner Ann Budge. Picture: Ian Georgeson

HEARTS boss Gary Locke insists he can work with prospective owner Ann Budge.

The Edinburgh businesswoman will complete the process to formally take the Jambos out of administration next month after striking a £2.5million deal to buy the shares of Ukio Bankas on Wednesday.

Her focus will then turn to restoring the relegation-bound Tynecastle side back to its former position as one of Scotland’s biggest clubs.

But there has already been speculation in recent months that the 66-year-old millionaire IT specialist would replace Locke with former Hearts boss Craig Levein when the current manager’s deal expires this summer.

Locke - who has yet to meet with Budge - saw his rookie season in charge beset by a 15-point deduction and transfer embargo.

But he is adamant he will have no problem forming an effective partnership with the future chairwoman.

He said: “Of course I can work with Ann. I am one of these guys who can work with anyone.

“I haven’t spoken with Ann yet. I met her a while back but she has been very busy working behind the scenes.

“She will have her plans but it will be great when she comes in. We have now got a chairwoman who has the best interests of the club at heart.

“I’m no different from any other Hearts fan, that’s all everybody wants.

“Ann will know what she wants to do. I have tried to do the best job I possibly can under really difficult circumstances. But like any club that gets new owners, they will have their own ideas.

“So we will just wait and see what happens. I keep saying it is not about me. The only thing that bothers me is that the football club is still here.”

Hearts were plunged into administration last June with debts of almost £30million after the Lithuanian business empire of former owner Valdimir Romanov crumbled.

But the club was saved from liquidation when Budge’s Bidco company struck a deal to acquire 29.5 per cent stake and floating charge held on Tynecastle from Ukio, who was also the club’s main creditor.

She will now run the club for at most five years before handing control to the club’s supporters.

The agreement brings to an end a period of grave uncertainty for the Jambos.

Locke admitted that even as late as last week, Hearts survival chances “wasn’t looking great”.

But he said the call he received on Wednesday morning to say Hearts nearing safety felt even better than the club’s most famous victory - the 5-1 thrashing of city rivals Hibernian in the 2012 William Hill Scottish Cup final.

“Wednesday is our day off so I got the call when I was at home,” he explained ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Premiership clash with Ross County. “It was a call that certainly put a smile on my face.

“Last summer when I sat down with our administrators Bryan Jackson and Trevor Birch for them to tell my truth about what was happening was the lowest point in my career, no doubt.

“It was a horror story.

“But 10 months on to get the news we got yesterday was such a relief. The club now has a great chance of moving forward.

“The phone call felt even better than the final whistle did when we beat Hibs 5-1 in the cup final. There’s no contest.

“We’ve now got an opportunity to get the club back to be successful. That’s all any Hearts fan wants.”

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