Gary Locke hoping for better luck against Celtic

GARY Locke has faced Celtic four times as a manager and spent the majority of those games watching through the cracks in his fingers.

Locke talks to the press ahead of his side's forthcoming clash against Celtic. Picture: SNS
Locke talks to the press ahead of his side's forthcoming clash against Celtic. Picture: SNS

But the Kilmarnock manager insists he has no fears ahead of his next meeting with the Hoops on Wednesday night.

As Hearts boss, Locke saw his side ship 14 goals against the Glasgow giants - half of them coming in one painful 7-0 thrashing back in December 2013.

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That crushing blow came on the back of a financial meltdown that left Locke facing a team of multi-million-pound signings with a clutch of Gorgie teenagers. But he believes he will travel to Celtic Park this evening with a Killie squad much better prepared for the job.

Locke talks to the press ahead of his side's forthcoming clash against Celtic. Picture: SNS

He said: “It will be a difficult fixture but the guys should be looking forward to it. I know as a player I loved going to Ibrox and Celtic Park.

“The pressure will be off us as no-one will expect us to get a result. The pressure will all be on Celtic as they are the ones chasing a title. I’ve not had much luck against Celtic as boss. That 7-0 game with Hearts was a hard one to take.

“I had to deal with a lot of things at Tynecastle off the pitch, but in terms of football, that was probably the lowest I’ve been as a manager because it was an embarrassing result.

“But I certainly wasn’t facing them with a Hearts team that you would normally face Celtic with. It was a young, young side.

Celtic's Scott Brown celebrates during his side's infamous 7-0 cup win over Locke's Hearts. Picture: SNS

“That result was the making of a lot of those youngsters because it was a big learning curve for them.”

Asked if he was happier facing the Parkhead side with his new Killie troops, he said: “The balance of this team is a bit better because there’s a bit more experience in the team.

“We have full internationalists in this side, so we are a bit stronger than when I faced Celtic with Hearts.”

The Rugby Park side have now lost three games in a row, raising questions about their ability to hold off Motherwell, seven points behind in the relegation play-off spot.

But with Locke admitting he will be forced to jettison three members of his squad come the summer, he wants his side to start answering their critics.

“I’m not too worried about the play-off battle,” he said. “I’d be more concerned if it wasn’t in our hands. But we are seven points ahead with six to play. For me, if we win a couple we will be safe.

“However, I’ve said to the players that they need to show everybody at the club that they want to be here.

“This is a club I feel is on the up – that’s why I signed here. But there are a couple of areas I feel we need to strengthen and if the guys want to stay, they need to show me they can play to their capabilities.

“These lads have all been a joy to work with, but for me to go again next season I know I will have to freshen things up by letting two or three go.

“The budgets here are tight and I know for me to make changes, I will have to sadly move some lads on.”