GARY LOCKE today congratulated St Johnstone on their stunning win over Rosenborg – then admitted the result highlights the tough task awaiting Hearts in their opening SPFL Premiership match of the season.
The Tynecastle side travel to Perth for their first fixture of the 2013/14 campaign next weekend and will take on a Saints side on a high after last night’s Europa League success.
Tommy Wright’s men made it through to the third qualifying round of the Europa League, thanks to a Stevie May goal at McDiarmid Park which secured a 1-1 draw and 2-1 aggregate win.
Locke said: “That is a huge result for them when a lot of people had perhaps written them off, so congratulations to them.
“It’s good for them and for our coefficient, which is not great at the moment, but I think that it also shows just how difficult our first game of the season is going to be.
“We always knew that it was going to be a tough match but, now that they have beaten Rosenborg, people are starting to sit up and realise that our task is going to be more difficult than they perhaps thought.”
As a result of Saints’ two-leg victory over the Norwegians, Hearts’ first game of the new SPFL season has been switched to a week on Sunday, instead of the Saturday afternoon, because St Johnstone’s next match in Europe takes place next Thursday night.
Locke conceded that playing 24 hours later than everyone else is not the ideal way to kick off the new campaign.
“It’s a bit of a blow to be honest, because we would prefer to play on the Saturday,” he added.
“But it’s a great result for them and I am delighted that they got the result.” Locke, whose side booked six friendly fixtures away from home in July, conceded that he can’t wait to get back to playing games at Tynecastle.
Hearts haven’t played a single game on their home ground over the course of the pre-season, the club revealing that their groundsman had advised them to give the pitch a chance to recover from the rigours of the last campaign.
They round off their friendly fixtures tomorrow against a Liverpool select in Belfast before that trip to McDiarmid Park and Locke continued: “It has been a long time but, unfortunately the pitch wasn’t
“ We would have liked to have played a pre-season friendly at Tynecastle but
obviously we have got to think long-term and
think about the season ahead.
“It has meant that we have had to organise our friendlies away from Tynecastle but we know that our first home game is going to be a good one.
“We’ve got the derby to look forward to and obviously the players will all be keen to be involved with that,” Locke pointed out.