Rangers and Hearts battle it out for the SFA Youth Cup tonight at St Mirren Park in Paisley and the Ibrox side’s Under-20 manager Gordon Durie believes that the Edinburgh club are going into the game with a timely boost.
Durie says that the installation of Craig Levein as the new director of football at Tynecastle will give the likes of Callum Paterson, Jordan McGhee, Billy King, Dale Carrick and Sam Nicholson an extra incentive to win.
Durie, whose playing career took him to Tynecastle, said: “I am really disappointed for Gary Locke and Billy Brown who had done a fantastic job at Hearts through difficult times and have left. I was as shocked as anyone when I heard that Lockey was no longer going to be involved. He is Hearts through and through and I wish him and Billy well in whatever they do next. Gary was a player when I was there at the end of my career and Billy came in after me as the manager of East Fife. I know the two of them and I know how hurt they will be feeling.”
Tonight’s game marks the start of the Ann Budge era for the Gorgie club and Durie insisted that will lift the Hearts youngsters, who have battled their way to the final under Robbie Neilson, who was yesterday promoted to head coach.
Durie said: “Hearts have played some of what is their first team squad in cup games already this season and that is their right. In the under-20 league they have not featured as often. However, they will bring in four or five boys that have gained a lot of first-team experience for this game. It will be their first opportunity to impress their new director of football. That is what happens in football. Players will go out looking to impress and they will be up for this final even more now with that extra incentive thrown in.”
The changing personnel of his opponents has also given Durie further issues to ponder as he explained: “We drew 1-1 and then beat Hearts 4-1 but I am not reading anything into those games, especially the second one which was against a young side,” he said. “We have had them watched a few times. However, I am sure that they will field a different side than the ones we have seen.”
Durie has, though, resisted the temptation to add players from manager Ally McCoist’s pool as he advised: “We could have used Fraser Aird and possibly Lewis Macleod who is nearing fitness. They were keen to be involved but they are established first-team players and we felt that we had to be fair to the boys that got us to the final. Barrie McKay is included as he has returned from his loan spell at Morton but that will be the only addition. Callum Gallagher, Andy Murdoch and Charlie Telfer have been involved occasionally in the first team over the past few months so hopefully they can show what they have learned.”
Rangers have not won this competition since 2009 and go into the meeting with Hearts just one week after Celtic denied them the under-20 title with a 2-0 win against Dundee United last Friday.
Durie is confident, however, that his players will bounce back to see off any threat from the capital youngsters, a side that finished bottom of the table given the circumstances.
“It was disappointing how our league campaign finished but the boys have been terrific,” said Durie. “We did not have the best of starts and if you had said that we would have finished second back in August we would have snapped your hand off for it.
“Training has been good this week.”