Gary Mackay: Locke the man to keep Hearts going

Gary Locke has taken Hearts on a great run of form

Gary Locke has taken Hearts on a great run of form

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I remember in the early 1980s, when Hearts were going through a tough time, our chairman Wallace Mercer placed his faith in a young manager called Alex MacDonald, who was barely into his 30s at the time.

Alex, of course, went on to be an excellent Hearts manager and led the club with real pride and dignity, and I see a lot of similarities between him and Gary Locke.

The improvement Gary, ably assisted by the likes of Billy Brown and Robbie Neilson, has overseen with this young team has been nothing short of magnificent. For me, he is the best man to manage Hearts at this point in time.

The whole squad could easily have downed tools after falling so far adrift around Christmas time but, even after having relegation confirmed, they are still fighting away for the cause.

The players and management deserve huge credit for how they’ve performed in the past few months. I have to admit I didn’t think the team had it in them to play and compete as well as they have done since that difficult first four months of the season.

Even though we’ve been relegated, for the first time in a long while it seems that things are going well for the club both on and off the park.

As happy as I am at the progress off the pitch, I just wish the process in Lithuania had occurred six weeks earlier to allow us that wee bit extra breathing space to prepare for next season.

As things stand, it means Ann Budge will have to move quickly with regard to getting everything in place for the new campaign.

Hopefully she can get in and sort things out before any of our out-of-contract players – young and experienced – are lured away.

The only negative of this glorious week for Hearts is that we have now lost one of our key men, Jamie Hamill, for Sunday’s trip to Easter Road, but we can still go there with plenty confidence.

In the first derby of the season we ended up winning despite being big underdogs. It’s testament to the remarkable turnaround Gary Locke has orchestrated that we will probably go into the last derby of the season as favourites.

What a transformation it’s been!