GARY LOCKE hopes to have three key players back for Sunday’s Edinburgh derby even if it means a major selection headache for the Hearts manager.
Andy Webster is free of suspension and Locke is keeping his fingers crossed that both Danny Wilson and Michael Ngoo return from injury to face Hibs at Tynecastle.
However, following Saturday’s comprehensive 3-0 defeat of St Mirren, Locke faces a difficult task leaving anyone out of his starting line-up.
“I do have a problem with team selection because there should be one or two back,” he said. “Big Andy will be back from suspension and I’m hoping Danny Wilson as well. Michael Ngoo will hopefully be fit too, so that’s three players who have done well for us.
“The performance at the weekend will give me a headache all week. With the way the boys played, they will certainly cause me problems with team selection for the derby.”
Locke felt the timing of the win over St Mirren - amongst Hearts’ best performances of the season - was vital as the derby looms.
“It is good timing. We said to the players that we have the derby next week but to get 16,000 people there on Saturday was unbelievable,” he continued. “Everyone at the club is really grateful for the support we’ve had all season. It certainly doesn’t go unnoticed in the dressing room.
“I said to the players to go out and put in a performance that merits the support they were getting on Saturday. I thought they did that and that is standard I want to set here - make Tynecastle a difficult place for teams to come.
“Since I’ve taken over, the effort I’ve got from the players is out of this world. If they put in that type of effort and commitment every week, we won’t be far away.”
After granting a senior debut to 16-year-old Jordan McGhee during the final minutes of the St Mirren match, Locke explained that the youngster deserved his opportunity.
“It’s always easier when you’re 3-0 up,” said the manager. “The way the game was going, I just felt it was right. Jordan has done really well for the under-20s and I’ve said all season that if players do well for the under-20 team, the next step is the first team.
“I’ve given him his debut and it was a good game for him to go on in because we were a few goals up. I put him on with a few minutes to go to give him a wee taste of it. I thought it was something he thoroughly deserved.
“I told him to go on, get a touch of the ball and get a wee taste for it. He was due to play for the under-20s last night, so that will bring him back down to earth. He’s had a good season and I’m delighted for him.”
Midfielder Calum Tapping has been handed a one-year contract extension while Hearts also confirmed that Dylan McGowan – as revealed in Friday’s Evening News – has also extended his deal for a year.