Gary Locke backs health check for managers

Gary Locke is supervised by Professor Stewart Hillis as he takes part in the new Managers' Health Check Project. Picture: SNS

Gary Locke is supervised by Professor Stewart Hillis as he takes part in the new Managers' Health Check Project. Picture: SNS

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GARY Locke has offered his backing to a project which aims to help managers and coaches deal with the stresses of their jobs.

Locke revealed yesterday that recent events off the field at Tynecastle were as emotionally demanding to deal with as anything that has happened on the pitch.

The Hearts boss, at Hampden to promote the Managers’ Health Check project, said his assistant Billy Brown had already taken part in the scheme, which offers a full heart scan as part of the assessment of each individual.

Locke said: “I spoke to Billy about it because he’s had it done. You can have it done fairly regularly and, with the highs and lows we’ve had already this season, it’s great for peace of mind. Stress is difficult to define, but there have certainly been times when I’ve felt I was carrying the whole world on my shoulders. That was particularly the case when people at the club lost their jobs. That day was horrible and it was uncontrollable – even when I went home to my wife Lynsey I still felt that way.

“I felt that everyone was looking to me and I was thinking: ‘What do I do?’ It was my first experience of working beside people who’ve been made redundant.

“That’s why this scheme is such a good thing. I’ve already had people telling me that I’m looking older, but I’m hoping the test will show me that I’m okay.”

Locke, who took over as Hearts manager last season, admitted it was at times impossible to ignore the demands of the job and relax. “You can’t switch off as a manager. Even when you go home you’re taking phone calls about this and that and thinking about how to improve things and come up with new ideas to keep training fresh and lively.

“I do try to relax with the family or with a game of golf. The gaffer, Jim Jefferies, has always told me to take the chances to switch off whenever they come.

“I make an effort to keep fit and train at least every second day. My knee problem makes that awkward, but our club doctor claims that’s no excuse and that there are always things you can do.

“Eating healthily is another problem when you’re constantly on the move and going to games but I make an effort, although – like every manager – I still love a beer and a Chinese meal at the weekend.”

Professor Stewart Hillis is in charge of the scheme, which was first carried out five years ago. He said it had identified health risks in some coaches.

“I can’t mention names, but over the programme there have been several interventions done, so we think it is a successful programme,” he said.

“It has meant referrals, which has led to further investigation and procedures which are potentially life-saving.”

Managers and assistants from all 42 of Scotland’s professional league clubs, as well as the national management, are invited to take part in the scheme. It is organised by Managers & Coaches Scotland, funded by Scottish Football Management, and carried out by the National Stadium Sports Health & Injury Clinic.

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