GARY LOCKE today leapt to the defence of Hearts winger Jamie Walker and stressed he should not be branded a diver.
The 20-year-old was booked for simulation in the second half against Dundee United on Saturday despite being fouled by Mark Wilson. Locke believes the decision was unfair and is angry that his player received an ill-deserved caution.
Walker has been accused of diving previously but Hearts feel he is not getting the protection he deserves. It was his run which earned a first-half penalty at Tannadice as Wilson tripped him inside the box for Jamie Hamill’s equaliser in the 4-1 defeat. In the 72nd minute, Walker skipped between Wilson and Paul Paton and was tripped on the edge of the United penalty area, but referee Craig Thomson chose to book the Hearts player.
“I don’t think you can say he’s a diver when he gets brought down,” argued Locke. “He comes inside the boy [Wilson] and gets brought down for the penalty. In the second half, he gets inside his man and he’s brought down. You can’t get labelled a diver if you’re getting kicked up and down the place every week.
“I thought Jamie was outstanding on Saturday. I told our boys at half-time to try and get the ball to him because he was giving Mark Wilson a torrid time. He was very positive. In that type of form, he’s a valuable player for us.”
Ryan Stevenson started the match despite being a fitness doubt, with Locke adding: “Stevenson trained and said he was all right. I can only go by the opinion of the player. I watched him in training, he trained on Thursday and Friday and said he was okay. I think you could see he was struggling a little bit and that’s why I took him off.”