GARY Locke expects his future with Hearts to become clear over the next fortnight now the club is on the brink of exiting administration.
Prospective owner Ann Budge has yet to announce her plans for next season, but Locke said yesterday that he was still less concerned with his own individual future than he was with securing a stable future for Hearts.
“I’ve worked hard, and I’ve tried to do the very best I can for Hearts, but it’s not about Gary Locke,” he said yesterday. “It’s been about the survival of this great football club.
“We are on the right road for that happening and whatever happens with myself will happen, probably over the next couple of weeks. So we’ll wait and see what happens.
“But I’m a Hearts fan and I’m no different to any other – all I’ve ever been concerned about is Hearts surviving. I’m delighted that’s happening and hopefully now we can get things moving.”
After Wednesday’s agreement to buy Ukio’s shareholding in Hearts and their security over Tynecastle, the next step to new ownership under Budge and the Foundation of Hearts will come towards the end of the month, when a 20-day cooling-off period relating to the sale of their shares by another Lithuanian company, Ubig, is due to expire.
Provided that passes without challenge, administrator Bryan Jackson of BDO will then be able to conclude the Sale And Purchase Agreement that will see ownership pass to Bidco, the Foundation’s takeover vehicle of which Budge is sole director.
That process may not be complete until June, but in the meantime, Locke expects Budge to begin her takeover in earnest. “Ann has a lot of decisions to make over the next couple of weeks,” he continued. “So I’m certainly in no hurry to sit down and iron out my future.
“It’s not about me. Ann will come in, she’ll have her own plans and her own ideas, and once she comes in and sorts all of that out my position will take care of itself. But at the minute the most important thing is we get as many fans through the turnstiles as we can for the last three home games, and try and finish the rest of the season on a high and try and win as many home games as we can.
“I have met her a couple of times and it has obviously been good to hear her opinions on stuff, and she’s heard mine. That’s been about it. She’s certainly had a lot more on her plate than just worrying about Gary Locke.
“That most important thing has been the survival of this football club, and there are loads of people who have worked tirelessly to try and make that happen. Wednesday was a great day for all of them. I’ve not really thought about my own future too much. I’ve loved being Hearts manager, I have tried to do the job to the best of my ability, and no doubt about it, it has been difficult.
“As I say I’ll wait and see what happens over the next couple of weeks but the most important thing is the football club has a positive future. And that’s the only thing that has concerned me since day one this season.”
Hearts’ relegation to the Championship was confirmed a fortnight ago when they beat Partick Thistle but St Mirren won at Motherwell. That victory at Firhill completed a week in which they took seven points from three games, after a win over Hibs and a draw with Aberdeen. Such a run of form has strengthened Locke’s claim to be given the job in the longer term, and there is little doubt that he would like to stay on at the helm of a squad he is sure has been growing up rapidly in recent weeks and months.
“I’ve certainly learned a lot, and I think whatever happens to myself I hope I have come out of it a better coach and a better manager, a better person,” he went on. “We’ve tried to handle everything the best way we can and we have done what we felt was right.
“I think if you ask the majority of Hearts supporters they’ve seen an improvement in the team. Personally, I think there’s been a huge improvement in the younger players, and the experienced players have handled themselves brilliantly.
“So I’m really proud of the players. Without them you’re nothing anyway as a coach or a manager. I’m delighted for them that they have got a bit of positive news and, hopefully, we can finish the season on a high.”
Just as Locke expects to learn about his own future in the coming weeks, so his players should be given a clear idea of the club’s plans for them. Not one of them has yet given any indication that he would rather leave than play for Hearts in the Championship.
“The great thing is there’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel now. Bryan Jackson says there’s still a wee bit to go, but it now looks like the players will get their futures sorted out in the next two or three weeks. That’s important.
“It’s great for them, because they’ve been through a lot and I’ve had a sense in the last couple of days that one or two of them were starting to get a bit anxious. The news we got on Wednesday should make them less anxious.”