Gary Locke hopes stars will feel tug of Hearts

Gary Locke, below, fears other clubs have eyes on  the likes of Sam Nicholson
Gary Locke, below, fears other clubs have eyes on the likes of Sam Nicholson
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Gary Locke is hoping that the prestige of playing for Hearts will be enough to persuade his out-of-contract players to hang around long enough to negotiate new deals.

Goalkeeping duo Jamie MacDonald and Mark Ridgers, as well as Jamie Hamill, Dylan McGowan, Sam Nicholson and Gary Oliver, are among those whose contracts are due to expire at the end of the season.

But with Hearts still waiting to emerge from administration, there is not much the club can do with regard to tying them down, other than hope that those players they want to retain are willing to take a leap of faith and hang on a month or two to sort out their future.

With MacDonald having been arguably Hearts’ best player this season and Nicholson one of the most highly-rated youngsters to come through the academy, Locke knows the club are at risk of losing their prized assets to opportunist rivals.

The manager admits he can only hope that his key men, many of whom have developed a bond with a club as a result of being on the books since childhood, are willing to snub likely overtures from other interested parties in the hope of securing a new contract when prospective owner Ann Budge eventually seizes control.

“Your worry with all the players is that other clubs will come in for them, especially the younger ones,” said Locke. “We’ve got a lot of youngsters in the team, but there are one or two playing exceptionally well. There’s a lot of clubs watching us because we’re such a young team. We just have to hope that the ones that are doing well see their future at Hearts because you wouldn’t want to lose them at this stage in their development.

“We can try and get things moving a wee bit, but you’ve really got to wait until things are in place before you start negotiating with players. The players have been patient so far so hopefully everything can get sorted out in the next few weeks.”