Hearts boss: Keep calm and Gary on

Hearts manager Gary Locke urges his team on against Saint Mirren. Picture by JANE BARLOW.

Hearts manager Gary Locke urges his team on against Saint Mirren. Picture by JANE BARLOW.

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GARY LOCKE has welcomed the chance to rest many of the Hearts youngsters who have played relentlessly since the season started. A two-week international break provides recuperation time for those who are still adjusting to the demands of senior football whilst fighting to keep their club in the Scottish Premiership.

Jason Holt, Callum Paterson and Jordan McGhee are on Scotland Under-21 duty, with Locke and coach Billy Stark having reached an agreement on how many Hearts players should be enlisted for forthcoming qualifiers against Slovakia and Georgia.

The majority of Hearts’ squad will be given time off later this week. Locke will order them to relax and make the most of the free time before regrouping ahead of the trip to Motherwell on Saturday week.

“When you get these periods coming up, it’s important we try to get them a little bit of a rest,” he said. “We’re relying on the same players week in and week out. Some of them are away with Scotland, which is great for them personally. In an ideal world, I’d like them to get a little breather.”

Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to St Mirren leaves Hearts with a ten-point deficit at the bottom of the league. Their nearest rivals are now Kilmarnock, who they face at Rugby Park in three weeks’ time. “We have to put this disappointing performance behind us and try to look forward to the Motherwell game in two weeks,” continued Locke.

“The boys are very down, there’s no doubt about that. With us having such a young team, we said at the start of the season this would be a big ask. After Saturday it’s not going to be any different.

“One thing we can’t do – we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. There is still a long way to go. If we can produce performances like we gave earlier in the season then we’ll give ourselves a chance.

“We’ll take Saturday on the chin. We didn’t play well on the day and that was the reason we lost. I certainly wouldn’t use pressure as an excuse.”