Gary Locke is adamant Raith Rovers’ mouth-watering clash against Hibs is bigger than him or Rudi Skacel.
The Rovers manager will cross swords with the Easter Road outfit for the first time since leaving his role as Hearts boss in June 2014, renewing a rivalry he lapped up during 14 years as a player, captain, coach and manager of his boyhood heroes.
While Locke is hardly popular among Hibs fans, his reception tomorrow is likely to be fairly muted compared to that afforded to Hearts icon Skacel. The mercurial Czech remains a legend at Tynecastle after winning the Scottish Cup with Hearts in 2006 and 2012, with the latter seeing him notch a hat-trick in a 5-1 demolition of Hibs.
Skacel has not been shy about winding up the green half of the capital, most notably choosing the number ‘51’ after joining Dundee United in 2012. Nevertheless, Locke has been quick to emphasise that the fixture at Stark’s Park is about Raith Rovers rather than Edinburgh rivalries – albeit he is acutely aware of what to expect from a sold-out away section tomorrow.
“I understand how it works – people will try to build things up, look at my past and the past of some of my players from Hearts and make the game about that,” said Locke.
“But I’m the manager of Raith Rovers, the only thing that concerns me is Raith Rovers doing well.
“Rudi [Skacel] is another who fits into that category, but Rudi is only one of 20-odd players we have at this football club and I value every one of them as much as the others.
“Obviously we’ll get a bit of stick, but I’m used to that and it’s all good natured. If we can take some of the heat off the other lads, then great.
”But this is a massive game, it will be a superb atmosphere, and it’s certainly not me versus Hibs or Rudi Skacel versus Hibs. It’s Raith Rovers versus Hibs – and hopefully we come out on top.”
Hibs arrive in Kirkcaldy on the back of four matches without a victory, while Rovers have lost four of their last five outings, leaving both sides desperate for a welcome fillip.
Locke continued: “A lot of people might be surprised by Hibs’ results but, having looked at the league, there is real quality in this division.
“Every team is capable of beating each other and all the sides have players that can hurt you. In my view this is the most competitive league in the country and every team has been really tough.
“However, this is when Hibs are at their most dangerous – a club of that size, with the management team they have in place, simply won’t accept low standards, and we’ll need to be ready for them to come here all guns blazing.”