The only worry for the Hearts boss about the possible arrival in Edinburgh of the former England captain is that it could mean a return to Inverness for John Robertson, who is currently assisting Locke as a part-time coach.
“It would be a fantastic appointment for Hibs,” Locke said yesterday. “Terry’s track record speaks for itself. He’s a fantastic bloke, first and foremost, and he’s a fantastic manager. It doesn’t surprise me that a club like Hibs, who are a huge club, are going for a manager of that stature. He’d be a formidable opponent – he’s a big lad.”
While stating diplomatically that it was not his place to advise any other club on who to appoint, Locke added that he was sure Robertson, a former Caley Thistle manager, would be strongly in the running to succeed Butcher if the latter moved to Easter Road. He said that although, as an individual, he would regret losing his colleague, he also thought it was about time that Robertson returned to football full-time.
“Of course it would be a big blow to lose Robbo. He has been fantastic since coming in. He’s been doing a lot with our young strikers – well, we only have one striker [Callum Paterson] for him to work with – but he’s been doing great work with the lads we are asking to do a job up front. He’s brilliant to have about the place, because everybody knows the legendary status he has at this football club.
“From a personal point of view I’d be really disappointed to lose him but, as a friend, I’d be delighted to see him get back into management because I know for a fact that is what he wants to do. I don’t know what is happening with the future of Terry, but I am sure that Robbo is one of the people that the chairman of Inverness will be having a close look at.
“It doesn’t surprise me that his name has been linked – the surprise for me is that he’s been out of the game so long. I got the job here and I knew he wanted to come in and help, so that was not a hard decision for me. Due to finances, I can’t bring him in full-time, but what he does with the young lads and what he does on the training ground is nothing short of fantastic.”
Although Pat Fenlon insisted that he had decided to resign after Hibs’ defeat in the league by Aberdeen, his last match in charge was the loss to Hearts four days later in the League Cup. Locke was as delighted by that result as any other Hearts supporter, but expressed some sympathy for Fenlon, who was the subject of a demonstration by Hibs fans immediately after that match.
“I don’t like to see any manager lose their job. We all know the pressures that management brings and it was not nice to see people protesting after we beat them. I don’t think that was required. They had gone nine games without a defeat before losing to Aberdeen, but they lose a couple of games and all of a sudden he is under pressure again.
“It goes to show how quickly things can change. I really felt for Pat and am sorry to see him go.”
Hearts themselves face Aberdeen tomorrow aiming to bring their losing league run to an end. With Derek McInnes’ team now up to second place in the Premiership, getting anything out of the trip to Pittodrie will be a tall order for the Tynecastle side, as Locke readily accepted.
“We know what a tough task it’s going to be. They’re a team playing with a lot of confidence but, if we can play like we did at Easter Road, then we will give ourselves a chance.
“We have to take confidence from beating them 2-1 at Tynecastle earlier in the season. I’ve said to the players that throughout the season a lot of people expected us to be on the end of a few hammerings, but that has not been the case. We have to take belief from that.
“If we can eradicate one or two of the mistakes we’ve made in the early part of the season, then hopefully we can pick up more points from the games coming up.
“We’ve tried to be as positive as possible throughout the season and the boys have been great, although the second half on Saturday [a 2-0 defeat at home to St Johnstone] was probably as bad as we have played. The boys know that and we’re looking for a response at Pittodrie.
“I always knew we’d face a difficult situation and most of the realists out there would know that this type of run would be inevitable at some point. The good thing, from my point of view, is that the boys are giving me everything they’ve got. If we can cut out the errors – and you’re going to get those with young players – then, hopefully, we can pick up a lot of points.”