Hearts manager Gary Locke insists he is living the dream – but has recalled how he could have ended up playing for fierce city rivals Hibs.
The dyed-in-the-wool Jambo has revealed how, as a schoolboy, he went on trial at the Leith club before eventually being signed by his beloved Hearts.
Locke became captain during his nine-year playing spell at Tynecastle, the highlight of which was the 1998 Scottish Cup final win over Rangers, despite missing the match through injury.
Already a favourite among the supporters for his unconditional commitment to Hearts as both a player and manager, Locke will enhance his hero status if he guides the team to Premiership safety this season.
But Locke admits it could have been all so different if his training stint at Hibs had been successful. He said: “When I was younger, I had a coach, Paddy Dolan, who was a huge influence on my career. He was my manager at Hutchie [Hutchison] Vale and, at the time, Paddy was involved with Hibs.
“I trained with Dundee to start with, I trained with Hibs, Celtic and Rangers. I trained with just about every team apart from Hearts and I thought it was never going to happen.
“I played for Hutchie in Edinburgh and there were always scouts at the games but they never ever seemed to be any Hearts ones.
“I was very fortunate, I played in a tournament through in Glasgow and Ian Grassick, who is still at Hearts now, was at the game and everything looked up after that.”
Locke is managing the club during one of the most troubled times in their history after Hearts plunged into administration during the summer.
Hit with a 15-point penalty, Hearts could move to within six points of St Mirren at the basement if they beat the Buddies at Tynecastle on Saturday.
Locke, speaking to Hearts TV, added: “The way that everyone is getting behind the football club at the moment, it’s certainly something I am really proud of and proud to be part of.
“I am living the dream. It was a fantastic achievement to actually play for Hearts and it’s something no-one will be able to take away from me, but to follow in the footsteps of some fantastic Hearts managers, John Harvey, Jim Jefferies – people like that, is a huge honour.”